Hong Kong court rules in favour of partner visas for same-sex couples

Hong Kong (dpa) - Hong Kong’s top court ruled Wednesday that foreign same-sex couples have the right to spousal visas in a landmark ruling for the socially conservative city.

The decision concludes a lengthy legal battle begun by a British woman known as "QT," who came to Hong Kong in 2011 with her same-sex partner "SS."

Although married in Britain, QT was denied a dependent visa and she applied for a legal review.

A brief legal victory in September for QT in Hong Kong's lower courts was immediately appealed by the Department of Immigration in the Court of Final Appeal.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the court struck down the Immigration Department’s current policy as "discriminatory."

It found that the ability to bring a dependent to Hong Kong was a legitimate concern in attracting "foreign talent" to the city and prioritising heterosexual couples was "counter-productive."

The case has been closely watched by Hong Kong’s large foreign community, which makes up almost 8.6 per cent of the population, according to government data.

The ruling was immediately described as a "a milestone for Hong Kong and a watershed moment for the rights of LGBTI people across Asia," by rights watchdog Amnesty International.

In March, 15 leading financial institutions, 16 law firms, and Amnesty International applied to file written submissions in support of QT but were ultimately rejected.

Hong Kong's government has fought against similar cases that could serve as a step towards legalising same sex marriage and include extending benefits to the same sex partners of civil servants. 

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