British lesbian wins visa rights case

By AFP July 04,2018

A British lesbian won the right to live and work in Hong Kong with her partner in a landmark decision Wednesday by the top court in the city, where same-sex unions are not recognized.

“QT”, who entered into a civil partnership in Britain in 2011 and moved to Hong Kong with her partner the same year, was backed by major financial institutions in her fight for visa rights in the economic powerhouse.

The Court of Final Appeal ended the protracted legal battle by ruling that it was “counter-productive” to limit dependant work rights to straight couples.

“The ability to bring in dependants is an important issue for persons deciding whether to move to Hong Kong,” the court said.

It said employment visas are granted because someone “has the talent or skills deemed needed or desirable. Such a person could be straight or gay.”

Hong Kong does not currently recognize gay marriage or same-sex civil unions.

QT’s lawyer Michael Vidler said the verdict marked the first time the city’s highest court has ruled in relation to the rights of same-sex couples.

“Hopefully it will pave the way to change” and to the recognition of same-sex marriage, he said.

Top financial institutions including Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have publicly supported QT, saying diverse hiring practices are crucial to attracting and retaining top talent.

In a statement delivered by her lawyer after the verdict, QT said she felt “joy” in the court’s decision “and knowing that I have in some small part helped advance the rights of LGBTI people in Hong Kong.”

She accused the government of treating her “like many thousands of other lesbian and gay people in Hong Kong, like a second class citizen because of my sexual orientation.”

Denied a dependant visa when she moved to Hong Kong after her partner got a job in the city, QT was forced to stay on as a visitor without the right to work.

In September last year she won her case at the Court of Appeal, which ruled immigration authorities had “failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers.”

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