British Lesbian Wins Spousal Visa Case

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Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s top court on Wednesday ruled in favour of a British lesbian on a dependent visa case in a landmark decision against the government that will have wide-ranging implications on how expatriate same-sex couples are treated in the city.

The Court of Final Appeal unanimously dismissed the appeal by the Director of Immigration against a lower court’s ruling, saying the director was wrong to deny the woman, known as QT in court, a dependent visa as her civil partnership is not recognised in Hong Kong.

QT was refused a dependent visa after her partner took up a job in Hong Kong in 2011. The women entered into a civil partnership in Britain that same year.

The court said it agreed with the Court of Appeal that there’s no rational connection between the policy of only granting dependent visas to spouses in a monogamous marriage consisting of one male and one female, and the administration’s aim of attracting foreign talent and maintaining strict immigration control.

In response, a spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said the government respects the decision of the court. She said officials are studying the judgement carefully and shall seek legal advice if necessary before deciding the way forward.

The case had generated great attention as 12 multinational financial institutions had sought to join the legal challenge against the government’s policy on LGBT rights.

Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, Nomura, AIG Insurance, ANZ, Societe Generale, ABN Amro, RBC, BNY Mellon and State Street Corp. had all wanted to join the lawsuit, saying they wanted to give the court “a more rounded picture” of the issue. But the court did not allow this.

QT had initially lost a judicial review over the visa arrangements in March 2016 when the case was heard at the Court of First Instance. But she went on to win an appeal in September last year, before the government challenged that ruling.

Following the verdict, Amnesty International issued a statement urging the government to “swiftly introduce comprehensive legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status”.

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