Trans pastor vows to keep performing same-sex marriages in Hong Kong in open defiance of the law

Hong Kong pastor Marrz Balaoro

A transgender pastor has vowed to continue performing same-sex marriages in Hong Kong, even though he risks being arrested.

Marrz Balaoro, 62, is a pastor and domestic helper who began socially transitioning at the age of 12, and moved to Hong Kong in 1981.

He was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of breaking Hong Kong’s marriage laws after he was found performing same-sex marriage ceremonies at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight (LGBTS) Christian Church, which he founded in 2014.

Same-sex marriage or civil unions are not currently legal in Hong Kong. The ceremonies that Balaoro held for gay couples were known as Holy Unions – religious blessings that held no legal weight. The charges were eventually dropped.

He originally held the weddings in secret, but in May last year he filed a judicial review case in the Hong Kong High Court, fighting for the right to openly hold Christian marriage ceremonies for LGBT+ couples.

His court case was based on the right to freedom of worship, arguing that as a pastor he should be able to officiate holy unions as he sees fit, without fear of arrest.

Unfortunately, according to Reuters, earlier this month the High Court rejected his argument. It ruled that it did not have the power to protect him from prosecution, but did agree that nothing he had previously done was illegal.

However, despite the fact that he could still be arrested, Balaoro said he would continue to perform same-sex Holy Unions.

He told Reuters: “I can still do (same-sex marriages) and I will continue to do so.

“The court said that I did nothing wrong or illegal – that is my assurance that I won’t get arrested.”

Balaoro said he was not planning to appeal the verdict, but added that he would like to team up with LGBT+ rights groups to continue to fight for same-sex marriage in Hong Kong.

He said: “I would love to express my willingness to help other local groups – so we can do lobbying together – but I’m not sure how soon that will happen.”

Although marriage equality doesn’t seem to be in the near future for Hong Kong, this month marked a step forward when a judicial review ruled that Hong Kong’s ban on same-sex couples accessing public housing was unlawful.