Hong Kong | Court rules for British same-sex couple


Despite same-sex marriage not being legal, Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal has ruled that foreign same-sex couples are entitled to equal visa rights.

Wednesday’s decision concerned a British woman, known as QT, who entered a civil partnership with another British woman, SS, in 2011 in the UK. When SS was soon after offered a job in Hong Kong and received an employment visa, QT accompanied her on a tourist visa.

QT then applied for a dependent visa, which would normally be granted to a partner of a heterosexual spouse in the same scenario. She was, however, denied the visa, which meant that she was unable to work and access other rights in the city. The Director of Immigration argued that same-sex couples were “outside the existing policy” and the matter ended up in the courts.

QT’s legal battle was supported by 15 banks and 16 law firms based in the city, who argued that Hong Kong relies heavily on international workers and must offer them equal rights.

The court agreed and said that the discriminatory immigration policy “ran counter to the aim of encouraging talent to join the Hong Kong workforce since a person who had the talent or skills deemed needed or desirable could be straight or gay.”

In a statement, QT said of the court victory: “Today’s ruling by the Court of Final Appeal affirms what millions of us in this wonderful and vibrant city know to be true, that discrimination based on sexual orientation… is offensive and demeaning – it offends against Hong Kong’s core values and undermines the rule of law.”

However, the court, noted that its decision was not intended to be a ruling on legalising same-sex marriage and it recognised “that a valid marriage under Hong Kong law is heterosexual and monogamous and is not a status open to couples of the same sex.”

Homosexuality was legalised in Hong Kong in 1991 but same-sex unions or relationships are not recognised and there are no laws specifically banning discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

The city is set to host the Gay Games in 2022 and Mr Gay World in 2019.

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