A gay expat in Hong Kong just won a landmark ruling over granting her spouse a visa

Participants at a march for marriage equality in Hong Kong in 2012.
Participants at a march for marriage equality in Hong Kong in 2012.
Image: Reuters/Bobby Yip
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A British woman known as QT, who spent years in Hong Kong courts fighting for dependant visa rights for her female partner, has finally won her case.

The court of appeal in Hong Kong today (Sept. 25) ruled that QT would now receive the same spousal benefits that heterosexual couples are entitled, according to a judgment shared by QT’s lawyers Vidler & Co. QT and SS, who entered a civil partnership in the UK, moved to Hong Kong in 2011 when SS took up a job at a tech company. QT filed a judicial review in Hong Kong in 2015 challenging the city’s immigration department, but her challenge was rejected by the high court in 2016 on the grounds that marriage in Hong Kong law is defined as that of between a man and a woman. The parties have four weeks to work out the exact details.

According to the judgment, today’s ruling was unanimous among the court of appeal’s three judges, who said that the immigration department has “failed to justify the indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers.”

“[T]imes have changed and an increasing number of people are no longer prepared to accept the status quo without critical thought,” wrote the judges. Even though same-sex marriage still isn’t possible in Hong Kong, “Immigration, by definition, requires one to consider not only the local, but also the relevant overseas situation,” they said.

QT’s challenge was seen as a key test case for LGBT rights in Hong Kong at a time when neighboring places in Asia are showing signs of progress on that front, particularly Taiwan, which recently legalized gay marriage. As a city that is home to numerous regional headquarters of foreign companies, some of the world’s biggest financial firms have been the most vocal in pushing for LGBT rights in Hong Kong, arguing that diversity is good for business.

In May, a Hong Kong court granted spousal benefits to the same-sex partner of a civil servant in a historic ruling—only for Hong Kong’s department of justice to appeal that ruling weeks later.

Correction: QT’s partner SS moved to Hong Kong to take up a tech job. An earlier version of this article misrepresented SS as the dependant spouse.