CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Diocese against bill favouring same-sex partners

HONG KONG (SE): The Hong Kong diocese has been critical of a proposal put forward by a member of the Legislative Council (LegCo), Cyd Ho Sau-lan, from the Labour Party, to amend the law so that same-sex couples married legally overseas would have the right to reclaim the ashes of their deceased partner from a columbaria.

On July 6, Ho proposed an amendment to the Private Columbaria Bill, which only allows relatives to retrieve ashes from a columbaria.

Same-sex marriages are not legal in Hong Kong, so partners are not recognised as relatives. The diocese is interpreting the proposed amendment as a move towards making same sex marriages legal.

Ho is suggesting that same-sex spouses married outside Hong Kong should be included in the definition of relative.

“It is already very painful to be widowed. Why should anti-gay people suppress the right of a same-sex spouse to handle his or her partner’s ashes? Why do anti-gays have such hatred?” Ho posted on Facebook on July 6.

Together with a Protestant group, the Society for Truth and Light, the diocese of Hong Kong made a public statement on July 7 addressed to all members of the LegCo, saying that the Church is compassionate towards a deceased person’s partner and understands their desire to retrieve the ashes, but has reservations and cannot agree with the proposed amendment.

The statement says that the Private Columbaria Bill should not touch on the gay marriage issue.

It continues saying that it would be wrong for the state to make the legal status of same-sex spouses similar to marriage and family, adding that the principle of respect and non-discrimination should not be used in support of same-sex unions.

Some lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender groups have launched a signature campaign in support of the amendment, stressing that their request is extremely humble and that there is no ulterior motive regarding same-sex marriage and that the two issues should not be confused.

“We hope those who oppose the amendment would look at the issue with empathy. Do not (let) it become an issue about legalising same-sex marriage in Hong Kong,” the statements says.

A Church worker in Hong Kong said that cases of same-sex spouses trying to claim the ashes of a deceased partner are rare, but the issue itself reflects how discussions have become irrational. 

“Pope Francis has reminded us many times that the Church should offer pastoral concern to gay people. There seems to be a trend for people to turn a small issue into a big one,” the person went on.

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