A Hong Kong court ruled this month against allowing same-sex marriage and civil unions, leading a human rights activists group to call the decision is a “bitter blow” to LGBTQ+ people living there.

The case centers on a lesbian identified as “MK” who launched the city’s first judicial challenge on the issue, stating the ban on same-sex marriage violated her constitutional rights, according to Reuters.

The Hong Kong court ruled Oct. 18 that the government is not required to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as opposite-sex married couples.

The court said that, while there are diverse and opposing views in society, it expressed “no view on the associated social, moral and/or religious issues,” according to Reuters.

CNN reported, “The court found that the evidence in the case was not ‘sufficiently strong or compelling’ enough to require defining marriage ‘as including a marriage between two persons of the same sex.’”

“Were the court to ‘update’ the meaning of ‘marriage’ to include a same-sex marriage, it would be introducing a new social policy on a fundamental issue with far reaching legal, social and economic consequences and ramifications,” the court’s decision stated.

“It is beyond the proper scope of the functions or powers of the court,” the court document said, according to CNN.

Hong Kong Pride Parade, 2018
Hong Kong Pride Parade, 2018
Source: Hong Kong Pride

Hong Kong decriminalized homosexuality in 1991. Hong Kong was a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Every October, Hong Kong holds “Pink Season,” an Asian LGBTQ+ festival focusing on arts, culture, drag shows and education.

But same-sex marriage remains illegal in Hong Kong as government officials are slow to change, an issue that Amnesty International Hong Kong said would allow for continuing discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

“This judgment is a bitter blow to the LGBTI communities in Hong Kong, who cannot acquire the same status and recognition, and access the same rights, as opposite-sex couples due to outdated laws that refuse to recognize same-sex unions,” Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said.

“This result is deeply disappointing but will not dampen the fight for LGBTI rights in Hong Kong,” Tam said. “We stand in solidarity with LGBTI people in Hong Kong and all those who bravely campaign for equal rights. The Hong Kong authorities must stop stigmatizing people based on who they are and immediately undertake a thorough review of all laws, policies and practices in order to end any discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.”

“MK” is a Hong Kong woman in a same-sex relationship who filed an application for judicial review in June 2018, claiming the government was violating her constitutional rights to privacy and equality, according to Amnesty International Hong Kong.