Hong Kong court backs legal recognition for same-sex couples

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Hong Kong's top court has ruled that the territory must provide legal recognition for same-sex couples.

The judgment from the Court of Final Appeal rejects petitions to expand the current legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples and to recognise same-sex marriages that took place overseas.

However, the court has given the Hong Kong government two years to create a new legal framework that grants them some legal rights.

Justices Joseph Fok, RAV Ribeiro and Patrick Keane dismissed suggestions that such a legal framework would be unworkable.

They ruled that legal recognition for same-sex couples was "required to meet basic social needs similar to those experienced by different-sex couples in stable relationships".

"Secondly, the absence of legal recognition has been seen to be essentially discriminatory and demeaning to same-sex couples," they said. 

Although homosexuality has been decriminalised in Hong Kong since 1991, same-sex marriages or civil unions are not permitted.

The campaign for same-sex marriage in Hong Kong has been led for the last five years by activist Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, who married his same-sex partner in New York in 2013.