Pro-LGBT banks offering support to expat lesbian couple would not offer any new argument, Hong Kong court rules

The woman is battling government in court for recognition of her same-sex relationship registered in Britain after Immigration Department refused to grant dependent visa

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 12:42pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 10:59pm

A strong show of solidarity from 12 leading international financial institutions in support of an expatriate lesbian spouse was rejected by a Hong Kong court on Thursday on the grounds they would be unlikely to offer new arguments.

The woman, identified as QT, is battling the government in court for recognition of her same-sex relationship registered in Britain, following a failed application for a judicial review over the Immigration Department’s refusal to grant her a dependent visa to Hong Kong.

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The 12 institutions filed an application with the Court of Appeal last month offering to provide their perspective on how the existing policy could adversely affect Hong Kong as an international financial centre by limiting the pool of quality foreign employees willing to relocate.

But the court found that their input would most likely repeat the points QT may wish to make anyway and dismissed the proposed intervention.

“The court can easily see the more rounded picture from the employers’ perspective without their input,” Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor wrote on behalf of chief judge Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung and Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon.

The institutions said they were “disappointed by the outcome” but would respect the court’s decision.

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The law firm Davis, Polk and Wardwell, acting pro bono on behalf of the institutions, said in a statement: “We continue to believe that attracting world-class talent, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion, to Hong Kong’s financial services industry is essential in maintaining Hong Kong’s position as a preeminent international financial centre. We will continue to advocate policies that facilitate this.”

The 12 institutions are ABN AMRO Bank NV; AIG Insurance Hong Kong; Australia and New Zealand Banking Group; the Bank of New York Mellon; Credit Suisse (Hong Kong); Goldman Sachs Services (Asia); Royal Bank of Canada; Societe Generale; State Street Bank and Trust; Blackrock Asset Management North Asia; Morgan Stanley Asia; and Nomura International (Hong Kong).

QT, who moved to Hong Kong in late 2011 with her same-sex partner SS, had applied for judicial review after the Immigration Department rejected her application for a dependent visa because it did not recognise same-sex relationships.

The couple took the case to court, arguing the decision was discriminatory and breached the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance.

But the lower Court of First Instance sided with the Hong Kong Immigration Department in finding the overseas concept of “spouses” – which QT’s lawyers argued should be broader than wedlock between a man and woman – did not apply to Hong Kong.

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QT’s appeal hearing is to be heard next Thursday and Friday.

She is to be represented by Dinah Rose QC, with Monica Carss-Frisk QC representing the government.

Both counsels hail from Blackstone Chambers in central London.