Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal has ruled that foreign same-sex couples are entitled to equal visa rights, as their heterosexual counterparts, despite same-sex marriage not being legalised or recognised in the nation.
The court’s decision which involved two British women who had entered into a civil partnership back in the UK in 2011, marks the first time that such a union had been recognised by Hong Kong.
The couple known as QT and SS who had been turned down for a dependent visa, following SS obtaining a job offer and received an employment visa, where advised that same-sex couples were “outside the existing policy” and the matter ended up in the courts.
QT’s legal battle in obtaining a dependant visa 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.
After a lengthy court case, the court eventually 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 about the court victory QT said, “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.”
Despite the positive outcome, 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 eventually legalised in Hong Kong back in 1991, however, 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 next Mr. Gay World competition in 2019, and is scheduled to host the Gay Games in 2022.