The belated recommendation by the Equal Opportunities Commission for the government to pass a law protecting gay rights should be welcomed by those people who believe that a lack

of tolerance and inclusiveness is detrimental to Hong Kong's claims to be a world city.

Bias against sexual minorities runs deep among the less-educated and underprivileged segment of society. Fanned by self-styled moral vigilantes, such bigotry has often turned into verbal abuse and even violent actions against gay people on the street and on public transport.

It has become clear to all open-minded people that Hong Kong needs a law to ban discrimination against gays. Such a law would not only offer basic protection of their rights but also educate the public to accept other people's free choice.

In its report, the Equal Opportunities Commission noted that there is clear support for an anti-discrimination law to protect those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersexual.

Not so, said a coalition of pro-family and anti-gay groups, which accused the commission of trying to mislead the public by twisting the results of various earlier surveys on the issue. But the surveys it cited were focused on one single issue, gay marriage, rather than on discrimination against the gay community.

The commission on Sunday reiterated its earlier assertion about public support for an anti-discrimination law. This seems more in line with progress toward a more tolerant society spearheaded by the younger generation.

Meanwhile, a church group has warned that the public consultation in the legislative process could intensify social confrontation, noting that although it did not oppose the law, it would seem wiser for the government to "educate" the public on tolerance rather than legislating it - though it is not surprising that a church group would take such an ineffectual stand on the issue.

But the commission is right. Hong Kong can no longer turn a blind eye to the issue and pretend it is not happening. It is time for Hong Kong to do what other civilized societies do - affirm the rights of its people to make a conscious choice on their sexual preferences.

This is the decent thing to do.

(HK Edition 02/02/2016 page7)

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