Hong Kong's top court denies financial firms' bid to support LGBT legal battle

Companies believe that case will affect hiring of foreign employees currently in same-sex unions

Hong Kong's top court denies financial firms' bid to support LGBT legal battle

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

The highest court in Hong Kong has dismissed a motion from over 30 financial institutions and law firms, as well as a global human rights organisation, to intervene in a case of a British lesbian woman to obtain a spousal visa.

The Court of Final Appeal released the ruling around a month after Amnesty International, along with 15 financial companies and 16 law firms, filed a motion to act as intervenors in what has become known as the “QT case”, reported the South China Morning Post.

The case is named after the initials of the woman fighting to be recognised as a spouse and dependent of her partner, who goes by the initials SS.

A representative of law firm Davis Polk and Wardwell, which represents the petitioners, said that they were “disappointed” in the ruling, but they respect the court’s decision.

“Hong Kong faces strong competition from other international financial cities in the region and globally and the current immigration policy risks putting Hong Kong behind other jurisdictions,” the spokesperson said, adding that respecting diversity will boost Hong Kong’s capability to attract talent.

SS relocated to Hong Kong from the UK for work, and QT, who had been in a civil union with her since 2011, followed and applied for a dependent visa, which is available only to spouses and immediate family members.

The Immigration Department traditionally only granted such visas to heterosexual married couples, but QT succeeded in a lower appeals court to have their union recognized. The government has appealed the decision, with the hearing set for June 05.

Meanwhile, the financial institutions and law firms have told the court that they had a stake in the case, as it would affect their ability to hire LGBT employees. They wanted to participate in the June 05 hearing to provide a “more rounded picture” of the issue.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li and justices Roberto Ribeiro and Joseph Fok recognised that the policy does affect employers.

“The [Immigration] Director’s policy, insofar as it excludes the spouses of persons in same-sex marriages, must have some limiting effect on the pool of persons who can, or may wish to, come to work in Hong Kong,” the decision said.

However, they declined to let the companies participate because their arguments had already been covered by QT’s lawyers.

The financial firms who wanted to become involved were: ABN AMRO Bank; AIG Insurance Hong Kong; Australia and New Zealand Banking Group; The Bank of New York Mellon; BlackRock Asset Management North Asia; Credit Suisse; Goldman Sachs; Morgan Stanley; Nomura International (Hong Kong); Royal Bank of Canada; Societe Generale Hong Kong Branch; State Street Bank and Trust; Barclays; Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft Hong Kong; and Macquarie Group.

An earlier petition by several of these financial companies had also been rejected by the Court of Appeal.


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