Same-Sex Couples in Hong Kong Granted Equal Visa Rights


And finally, for some good news: On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s top court unanimously ruled in favor of equal visa rights for same-sex couples living in the city. According to Bloomberg, the court ruled that Hong Kong’s Immigration Department, which has a policy of welcoming (and, ideally, maintaining) quality workers, was failing to do so by refusing to grant dependent visas for same-sex spouses.

The landmark decision stems from a 2014 case, in which a British woman, known only in court documents as “QT,” applied for a visa to reside with her partner, “SS,” in Hong Kong. (According to the New York Times, the couple entered a same-sex civil partnership in England, in 2011, a few months before QT’s application for a dependent visa in the Asia’s financial capital was denied.) QT claimed discrimination and lost in a 2016 case in the Court of First Instance. In 2017, the Court of Appeal ruled that the visa policy was, in fact, discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation and on Wednesday, upheld the decision in the Court of Final Appeal.

Jan Wetzel, senior legal advisor at Amnesty International, shared the following statement:

This judgment is a milestone for Hong Kong and a watershed moment for the rights of LGBTI people across Asia. It recognizes that same-sex couples legally married or in civil partnerships overseas should be able to live with their partners in the same way as opposite-sex couples.
The Court of Final Appeal has sent a clear message that the government must respect the right to equality in its policies, including when it comes to immigration.
The government must now follow up and end the discrimination same-sex couples face in all walks of life. It must also swiftly introduce comprehensive legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. No one should experience discrimination because of who they are, or who they love.

Same-sex marriage has yet to be legalized in Hong Kong, but the hope is that this decision will influence future rulings.

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