Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse among pro-LGBT banks backing expat lesbian couple in legal battle against Hong Kong government

Twelve leading financial institutions seek to make court submission on behalf of British woman seeking dependant visa

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 June, 2017, 10:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 12:42am

In a rare show of solidarity with sexual minorities, 12 leading multinational financial institutions in Hong Kong are offering support for an expatriate lesbian spouse battling the government in court for recognition of her same-sex relationship registered in Britain.

The firms have filed an application with the Court of Appeal to put forward a submission spelling out their views on the impacts of the current government policy on their recruitment of talent from overseas.

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Those lending their support are: 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; and State Street.

“By applying to intervene, they seek to assist the court by giving a more rounded picture of the issues than it would otherwise obtain, by providing an employer’s perspective to the court’s considerations,” said a statement issued on Wednesday by law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, which represents the 12 institutions.

“They all have corporate policies, strategies and practices to promote diversity and inclusion ... They all seek to attract and hire top talent from around the world in line with their diversity policies in order to maintain our position in the world talent market place.”

It is rare for corporations to intervene in local court cases in this manner. The move is similar to the amicus brief filed by 379 businesses in the landmark marriage equality case decided in 2015 by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell vs Hodges.

They all seek to attract and hire top talent from around the world in line with their diversity policies

It will be up to the court next to decide whether the submission will be considered in the appeal, set to be heard on Thursday and Friday next week.

At the centre is the legal challenge brought by a lesbian couple, named only as SS and QT, who moved to Hong Kong in 2011 after SS secured a professional job in the city. The couple had forged a civil partnership in Britain, a status that gives them the same rights and responsibilities as a married couple under British law.

However, the Hong Kong Immigration Department rejected QT’s application for a dependant’s visa because it does not recognise same-sex relationships. The pair took the case to court, arguing that the decision was discriminatory and breached the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance.

The Court of First Instance ruled against QT in March last year, but QT is appealing.

Community Business, a non-profit organisation advocating corporate responsibility and diversity and inclusion, said it was “fully supportive of the 12 institutions’ collective action “as a “compelling way to demonstrate that this is a key issue for business”.