Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Motion debate speech on "Transgender Marriage"

Mr President, transgender persons are probably the minority among minorities, and their lives and needs are likely more unfamiliar to most of the rest of us. So, I thank the Hon Ray Chan for bringing up this quite controversial issue for debate in this chamber.

But, Mr President, I am blessed to know a good friend from this transgender community. Ms Robin Sarah Bradbeer is a good friend of mine, a retired academic from a local university, an outstanding and well-respected member of IT professional institutions in Hong Kong and internationally.

To me, she is no different from anyone of us, and she deserves any and all the rights we have. The only accommodation I have to make is that, in order for her to be able to hear this without interpretation, I am making this speech in English.

Mr President, from the Court of Final Appeals judgment, we can see that there are a lot of legal issues still to be resolved. Just making the revisions in the relevant provisions in the Marriage Ordinance and the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance, so that transgender persons are no longer barred from getting married because of their gender by birth is just a first step. Without a broader gender recognition scheme, transgender persons still face hassles or even difficulties in daily matters like opening a bank account, renting an apartment, looking for a job, even finding a right toilet to go to. In order words, this has to do their rights to live with dignity, and their rights to live free of discriminations.

Indeed, there are two important points made in the CFA judgment that I want to draw members' attention to.

First, the Justice wrote, "In addressing the question whether an individual like W qualifies as 'a woman' so as to be entitled to marry a man, the Court ought in principle to consider all the circumstances -- biological, psychological and social -- relevant to assessing that individual's sexual identity at the time of the proposed marriage."

Second, the Justice pointed out, "Reliance on the absence of a majority consensus as a reason for rejecting a minority's claim is inimical in principle to fundamental rights." So, please, do not use your own view on the matter to reject fundamental rights to a minority. That is the most immoral thing to do.

The CFA gave a year for the government to execute the necessary revisions to the Marriage Ordinance and the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance, and we are simply asking the administration not to procrastinate until the last minute, so the community and this legislature will not have enough time to examine these amendments, not to mention that the Administration may shove aside the CFA call to “expeditiously enact a gender recognition ordinance.”

Such delays are not just going to further deprive transgender persons their rights and prolong their agonies, it is also going to induce more legal problems and potential litigations, similar to the W case. It’s just going to cost us taxpayers more money too.

Mr President, I am both amazed and dismayed by the Hon Priscilla Leung's amendment, where she added a condition to "consider studying whether there is a need to amend the Marriage Ordinance and the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance", as if saying that there is still room for the Administration to manoeuver and ignore the order in the CFA judgment that is most clear and direct. The additional condition to limit the right to marriage to "people who have biologically completed sex reassignment surgeries" is also clearly counter to the CFA's judgment's direction as to how an individual's sexual identity at the time of the proposed marriage should be assessed, that is, considering all circumstances, including biological, psychological and social. For a while, I thought she is talking science fiction, and then I realize, it is plain old bigotry, intolerance and discrimination.

Recently, The Professional Commons published a research paper entitled "It's Time for Change: Towards a Gender Recognition Ordinance for Hong Kong", led by Dr Bradbeer, Dr Sam Winter of the University of Hong Kong, and The Professional Commons' Task Force on Transgender Law Reform. We argue for the introduction of gender recognition legislation in Hong Kong that is both comprehensive and inclusive, that is, comprehensive in providing recognition to transgender persons in all relevant areas of life, and inclusive in applying to a broad range of transgender persons, and without imposing unreasonable medical barriers, and using the UK Gender Recognition Act of 2004 as a starting point.

This GRA provides recognition through the issuance of a gender recognition certificate, which provides legal gender recognition in a wide range of areas, not only marriages but also in areas such as registration, parenthood, social welfare benefits, pensions, discrimination, succession, gender specific offences, and so on. The certificate provides these recognitions to applicants based on gender identity and lived experience, regardless of medical treatment such as hormones or surgery. A Gender Recognition Panel maintains a rigorous evaluation process, requiring the submission of medical analysis and many other documented proofs, even for those who have already undergone reassignment surgery.

Mr President, we pride ourselves in Hong Kong as a fair and equal society, and we should not allow the majority to find further excuses not to grant fundamental rights to the minority. It is totally unacceptable for the majority to further delay after the court has made its judgment perfectly clear. On the other hand, the fact that the Hon Ray Chan has to propose this non-binding motion in order to push the Administration to do what it is supposed to have been told by the court to do is actually pretty pathetic.

Make no excuse. This motion is about dignity to all, discrimination to none.  Nothing else. I support the original motion by the Hon Ray Chan and the amendment made by the Hon Cyd Ho. Thank you, Mr President.


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