The Need For Equality In Hong Kong’s Immigration Laws
Pride parade making its way through Central Hong Kong on the way to Tamar Park.
Isaac and Lacey Goldstein met 14 years ago at San Francisco State University. They fell in love and got married seven years ago. Josh Erdman and Cotter Christian met 11 years ago while working at a restaurant in New York. They fell in love and got married two years ago. Both couples have the same marriage licenses from California.
Hong Kong recognizes the Goldstein’s marriage meaning they were able to get a work visa for Issac allowing him to stay and work here for as long as Lacey is employed. Hong Kong does not recognize Josh and Cotter’s marriage because they are gay meaning Josh has to leave every 3 months to renew his tourist visa. He cannot work and if you can’t work it is hard to get by.
“Getting the visa was very easy, filled out the paper work and collected the other documents and just submitted them,” said Lacey Goldstein who works as a nanny. “It did take longer with the dependent visa but only took 8 weeks.”
For Erdman, who wants to be granted the dependent’s visa, it hasn’t been as easy, “I always have this constant fear I will be deported. Every time I walk through that line getting off the plane or the ferry from Macau, you never know what happens.” It hasn’t happened to him yet, but there are stories of people walking through immigration and only given 3 days in Hong Kong then having to go through the stress and paper work of applying for an extension.
Currently 16 countries and 32 states in the United States recognize same-sex marriage. In many of these countries, including Canada and the United States, same-sex couples are able to sponsor their spouse for immigration and are able to get work visas. The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), a part of the Hong Kong Government, is reviewing all laws that may discriminate against people based on sex, sexual orientation, disability, race, and nationality. They have been holding public consultations since July and will continue until next Thursday.
“The EOC believes it is time that Hong Kong follows the steps taken by the international community on the recognition and protection of rights of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community,” said Lisa Chan a spokesperson with the Equal Opportunities Commission. “The EOC is also advocating for legislation to protect LGBTI persons from discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The British Consul General Caroline Wilson warned in August, to the SCMP, that people would be put off Hong Kong by the lack of rights for the LGBTI community.
Christian, feels the Immigration Department should recognize their marriage license, as it is also good from a business perspective. It will attract more creative people to come to Hong Kong rather than Singapore, which, he says, is positioning itself as the design capital of Asia even though, there are fewer rights for the LGBTI community than in Hong Kong. “If you look at some of the trends as cities are marketing themselves as a business almost and they are taking on these platforms that it is good for business to be good for gays,” said Christian.
As well, giving this right or building more protections for the LGBTI is a reflection of what is going on today. “If you are seeking true universal suffrage then you are saying everyone has a right to be equal under the eyes of the law yet you are having a double standard with certain parts of your laws,” said Christian. “You can’t just piece meal human rights. It has to be all or nothing or you will be in violation of that.”
Christian and Erdman are unsure about their future in Hong Kong. Erdman is considering going back to school here but Christian’s contract is up in April. Through out their year and a half in Hong Kong there has been a lot of stress both emotionally and financially put on their relationship because of visa issue.
“I knew it was going to be tough. I knew it was going to be hard. I didn’t know it was going to be this hard. I didn’t know it would make me question a lot of my life choices,” said Erdman. “Luckily we have been each other’s best friend.”