Hong Kong Legalizes Transgender Marriage in Watershed Court Ruling

Hong Kong will amend its city marriage laws after ruling Monday that a transgender woman may marry her boyfriend. Many are calling it the next step to legalizing same-sex marriage in the Asian city.

On Monday, four out of five judges in China's Court of Final Appeals accepted the appeal of appellant Ms. W, a 30-year-old transgender woman who, due to Chinese law, kept her name anonymous during the court proceedings.

Ms. W appealed the rulings of lower courts, which determined that she could not wed her boyfriend because her Hong Kong birth certificate identified her as a male and could not legally be changed.

Although she was born a male, Ms. W received sex reassignment surgery in Hong Kong in 2008 so that she may become a transgender woman.

The appellant's lawyer, Michael Vidler, argued that his client had been issued a letter confirming her new gender by her hospital, and the government had subsidized her sex reassignment surgery, and therefore it was against her constitutional rights to deny her the ability to marry her boyfriend when Hong Kong law recognized her as female.

Additionally, following her surgery, Ms. W's passport and identity card reportedly identified her as a woman, and at public events she was required to use the women's restroom.

"I have lived my life as a woman and been treated as a woman in all respects except as regards to my right to marry. This decision rights that wrong," Ms. W said in a statement read by her attorney for reporters following the court's ruling.

"I am very happy that the court of appeal now recognizes my desire to marry my boyfriend one day and that that desire is no different to that of any other women who seek the same here in Hong Kong," Ms. W continued.

According to People's Daily Online, a local newspaper circulating the Republic of China, Ms. W's case had been turned down twice in lower Hong Kong courts, the first attempt taking place three years ago.

The lower courts reportedly argued that marriage for Ms. W implied conceiving children, and Monica Carss-Frisk, legally representing Hong Kong's marriage registration authority, argued that legalizing transgender marriage would be equivalent to legalizing same-sex marriage.

As many critics contend, the decision made by the court serves as a watershed ruling in the traditionally conservative landscape of Hong Kong, sitting one notch below the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Monday's decision affects the city's transgender community in that in allows a transgender person who was born a male to marry a man, and a transgender person born a female to marry a woman.

In other countries in the region, postoperative transgender people are able to marry the sex opposite their new gender. These countries include mainland China, India, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

The court announced Monday that this new ruling will not take effect for 12 months.