By: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer
HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s court of appeal has made history in its ruling that a British lesbian who moved to the territory with her spouse, should be granted a dependent visa.
Usually visas are issued to husbands and wives of foreigners working in Hong Kong but had never in the history of the territory had one been issued to a same-sex couple. When the plaintiff originally applied for the visa she was denied due to the fact that she and her spouse were not considered a married couple.
Same-sex marriage continues to be banned in Hong Kong although discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal. Gay marriage activists say that the ruling by Hong Kong’s court of appeal, makes this is a landmark case that could lead to greater equality.
The plaintiff in the case who is only known as “QT”, entered into a civil partnership in England in 2011 after more than seven years with her spouse. In the same year, the couple moved to Hong Kong after QT’s spouse was offered employment in Hong Kong.
“QT said that applications to the Immigration Department had been rejected after officials refused to recognise her UK-registered partnership. In a unanimous ruling by three judges, the Court of Appeal said immigration authorities had “failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers”. “Times have changed and an increasing number of people are no longer prepared to accept the status quo without critical thought,” wrote chief judge Andrew Cheung. The decision overturned a ruling by a lower court last year and ordered Hong Kong’s Immigration Department and QT to work together on an agreement and submit it to the court within 28 days.“
Hong Kong’s LGBT activists celebrated the news with the city’s first openly gay lawmaker, Ray Chan, saying that it is an historic win for same-sex dependents to apply for visa to work and live in Hong Kong with their partners.
The Equal Opportunities Commission further added that it was time for the government to consider a legal framework and policy measures to begin recognizing gay marriage relationships and to protect LGBT rights.
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