HONG KONG – A British lesbian has won a landmark legal challenge allowing her residency in Hong Kong as a dependent, in a ruling Monday that could make it easier for gay couples to move to the Asian financial center.
Hong Kong's Court of Appeal found that the woman, identified only as QT, faced discrimination from an immigration department ruling denying her the right to live and work in Hong Kong because the city does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The three-judge panel's decision, which overturned a lower court's judicial review, caps a yearslong fight by QT and her partner to be given the same treatment as tens of thousands of other expatriate workers who are allowed to bring their heterosexual spouses to the former British colony.
QT and her partner married in a civil partnership in England in 2011 and moved later that year to Hong Kong after QT's partner was offered a job. She applied for a dependent's visa but was rejected on the grounds that she was not considered a spouse and since then has spent her time in Hong Kong on a tourist visa.
Under the immigration policy, "each foreign worker is only entitled to apply to bring one spouse to join him or her in Hong Kong," one of the judges, Justice Andrew Cheung, said in the ruling. "Whether that spouse is of the same sex or different sex is neither here nor there. In terms of quality, whether the spouse is heterosexual or gay cannot possibly be relevant."
Hong Kong is home to a sizable contingent of expatriate workers employed as bankers, lawyers, teachers, accountants, pilots and other skilled staff. In a sign of the case's importance to Hong Kong's financial community, 12 global banks and fund managers including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley threw their support behind QT and sought to present their views to the court.