Judge Anderson Chow Ka-ming made the ruling against the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.

A Hong Kong judge has ruled against the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong joining the debate around marriage equality, as the issue is a legal one, not a religious one.

The city does not currently recognise same-sex marriages, although following a Supreme Court decision last year it does respect spousal visas.

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong had attempted to enter the legal debate, arguing they would provide a “rounded picture” of Christian-defined marriage, but Judge Chow Ka-ming ruled against it.

In the ruling, Judge Chow Ka-ming said: “It needs to be emphasised the court cannot arbitrate on social, moral, religious, or theological issues, and does not decide cases based on such a consideration.

“The court’s only proper rules… is to determine the application based strictly on legal considerations.”

The case they attempted to enter on, concerns a lesbian only known as MK. She is arguing that being unable to form a civil union with her partner infringes on her right to privacy and equality, and that this violates the city’s mini-constitution.

Her case is due to be heard from 28 May.

Support for legalising same-sex marriage in Hong Kong jumped 12% over a four-year-period, as well as overall support for the community.

Seen Yiu-tung, an academic who took part in the study, said: “Our study shows that support for the rights of same-sex couples has grown markedly over a short period.”

The study also found that the there was a huge discrepancy between the law and the opinion of the city’s residents.

“While 69 per cent of Hong Kong people said they favour having a law to protect against sexual orientation discrimination, the government of Hong Kong has yet to enact such legislation,” explained Kelley Loper, director of the HKU’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law.