|LCQ7: Provision of same-sex marriage registration services by foreign consulates
Following is a question by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (December 10):
In accordance with the "Consular Marriage and Marriages under Foreign Law Order 2014" of the United Kingdom, which came into force on June 3 this year, if no objection has been raised by the authorities of the country or territory where a British Consulate ("BC") is located, that BC may provide same sex marriage registration services for British nationals inside the consulate. Currently, BCs in 25 countries around the world (including China) may provide such services. It has been reported that the Hong Kong Government once raised objection to the provision of same sex marriage registration services by BC in Hong Kong, but it later on stated that it was up to the consulate to decide what services were to be provided to its nationals. In respect of same sex marriage registration, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has assessed if the provision of same sex marriage registration services by BC in Hong Kong for British nationals or for people holding British National (Overseas) passports is in compliance with the provisions in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Consular Relations Ordinance (Cap. 557); if it has, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it has assessed if the Hong Kong Government has the power to interfere with the provision by foreign consulates in Hong Kong for their nationals registration services for heterosexual marriages, same sex marriages and civil partnerships inside their consulates; if it has assessed, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) as Article 13 of the Basic Law stipulates that "[t]he Central People's Government shall be responsible for the foreign affairs relating to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region", whether the Government has consulted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China regarding the plan of BC in Hong Kong to provide same sex marriage registration services; if it has, of the views so obtained;
(4) as a marriage contracted under the existing Marriage Ordinance (Cap. 181) "is in law the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman", whether the law of Hong Kong recognises the same sex marriages of Hong Kong residents registered outside Hong Kong or inside the foreign consulates in Hong Kong; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(5) whether it has assessed if the Government has the power to obstruct Hong Kong residents from registering for same sex marriages outside Hong Kong or inside various foreign consulates in Hong Kong; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, of the details;
(6) whether it has compiled statistics on the current number of Hong Kong residents who have registered for same sex marriages outside Hong Kong; if it has, of such statistics; if not, whether it will add this statistical item in the 2016 Population By-census; and
(7) whether it has any plan to examine the laws relating to same sex marriages and civil partnerships in various countries, so as to assess if such laws can be applied in Hong Kong; if it has such a plan, of the details; if not, the justifications for that?
After consultation with the Protocol Division, Department of Justice, Security Bureau, Home Affairs Bureau and the Census and Statistics Department, the Government's reply is provided as follows:
Foreign consulates, in deciding what services they should provide to their nationals, should have regard to (i) the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations; (ii) any consular agreement concluded between the Central People’s Government ("CPG") and the government of the sending state and applied to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ("HKSAR") by the CPG; (iii) Regulations of the People's Republic of China concerning Consular Privileges and Immunities; and (iv) the laws of Hong Kong including the Consular Relations Ordinance (Cap. 557).
In Hong Kong, section 40 of the Marriage Ordinance (Cap. 181) stipulates that every marriage under the Ordinance "shall be a Christian marriage or the civil equivalent of a Christian marriage" which "implies a formal ceremony recognised by the law as involving the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others." Same-sex marriage or civil partnership not contracted in compliance with the requirements under Hong Kong law will have no legal effect in Hong Kong, i.e. will not be legally recognised as valid marriage in Hong Kong. The Government has no plan to assess the laws of other countries on same-sex marriages or civil partnerships.
The Government will not comment on its government-to-government communications, including those with the CPG and those with consulates in the HKSAR, or the services that individual consulates in Hong Kong provide to their nationals.
The Government does not have statistics of Hong Kong residents having registered same-sex marriages outside Hong Kong, and has no plan to collect data in this regard in the 2016 Population By-census.
Ends/Wednesday, December 10, 2014