Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal ruled Monday that a law prohibiting a transgender woman from marrying her boyfriend was invalid under the Chinese constitution. The law [text] had been interpreted to hold that only a person's gender at birth could be considered for the purposes of marriage, which is restricted to a man and woman. The 37-year-old woman, known to the media only as "W," reportedly unsuccessfully sought to overturn the law [South China Morning Post report] in court twice after having a government subsidized gender reassignment surgery five years ago. W reportedly argued that the government's refusal to allow her to marry effectively barred her from marrying anyone, in violation of the constitution. Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li agreed, holding that barring transgender people from marrying in their acquired gender would require the government to characterize transgender people as "pseudo" men or women. The court reportedly held that the law unduly burdened an individual's right to marry, thus contravening a fundamental constitutional right. The lone dissenting judge argued that the decision upends centuries of tradition and that the populace should have been consulted. According to media sources, the ruling will not take effect for another year in order to give the legislature the option to amend the law. However, if the government chooses not to amend the law in accordance with the high court's order, the ruling will be deemed unconstitutional.
Rights of LGBT individuals remain a contentious issue throughout the world. In March Canada's House of Commons approved a bill [JURIST report] outlawing discrimination against transgender individuals. The bill amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and hate propaganda section of the Criminal code to include "gender identity" and "gender expression" as an improper basis for discrimination and hate speech. In July Alaska Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell issued a regulation [JURIST report] that allows transgender individuals to change the sex indicator on their driver's licenses without undergoing surgery. In April 2012 the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) ruled [JURIST report] that Title VII employment discrimination protections extend to transgender individuals. In March 2012 the US Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST report] in Fields v. Smith, allowing a lower court decision that transgender hormone therapy is a medically necessary procedure to stand.