Hong Kong's high court rules that gay expat couples can seek spousal visas

Hong Kong's high court rules that gay expat couples can seek spousal visas
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Hong Kong's highest court on Wednesday ruled that same-sex couples living there can now seek the same spousal visas as married heterosexual couples.

The New York Times reported that the decision could be a transformative step toward the future of gay rights in the city.

The initial case was introduced in 2014 by a British woman who wanted to join her partner in Hong Kong, but was denied a dependent visa because marriage in the city is defined as being between one man and one woman. Without such a visa, foreign partners are only allowed to stay on a temporary tourist visa.

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The woman, named "QT" in court documents, lost her case claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2016 in Hong Kong's Court of First Instance. The Court of Appeal, however, ruled unanimously in QT's favor last fall, maintaining that the visa policy was indirectly discriminatory. Hong Kong's top court upheld the lower court's decision unanimously on Wednesday, the Times reported.

“This judgment is a milestone for Hong Kong and a watershed moment” for gay rights across Asia, Jan Wetzel, senior legal adviser at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the University of Hong Kong released the results of a poll from last year, which revealed that more than half of the city's residents who were surveyed support same-sex marriage. In 2013, just 38 percent said the same.

According to the survey, Hong Kong residents surveyed showed similar support for granting same-sex partners visas.