Landmark ruling on same sex marriage visas gives Hong Kong an edge

Published:  6 Jul at 6 PM
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A recent landmark ruling by a Hong Kong court over granting visas to same sex spouses of gay expats is threatening global financial hubs’ search for talent.

In this competitive world, international financial hubs are at war over grabbing the best and brightest expat talent, but many Asian countries are lagging behind in their acceptance of gay relationships and marriages, forcing LBGT professionals to find work elsewhere. In Asia, only Taiwan is beginning to recognise gay marriage as a fact of life, making the Hong Kong court’s landmark judgement a welcome ruling in the battle for gay rights in the region. Banks and upscale law firms including Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Nomura Holdings and more welcomed the judgement, saying problems getting visas for spouses of gay professionals has hindered their recruiting in the past.

Hong Kong’s highest court sent down an unanimous judgement that denying a spousal visa to the civil partner of a lesbian expat amounted to unlawful discrimination. The case went through denial by the first court, a successful appeal against the verdict, an attempt by the Immigration Department to overturn the appeal court’s decision and, finally, the landmark judgement itself. One openly gay lawyer in Hong Kong believes the island now has a major advantage over its competitors for the best and brightest in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

For example, Japan says it embraces difference and diversity, but still doesn’t allow same-sex marriages. Gay partnerships in Singapore have real problems as a colonial-era sodomy law is still on the statute books. Last year, the city-state’s government forbade foreigners from attending a major gay rights rally, and the state is in direct competition with Hong Kong for top expat talent. It seems the most positive aspect of the Hong Kong court’s judgement is that sexual preferences now have no part in the suitability and selection of a talented expatriate for a position and its related employment visa.
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