Despite Hong Kong not recognising same-sex marriage a British woman has been able to secure a dependent visa in Hong Kong, normally only granted to spouses of heterosexual couples, which grants her the right to work and live in Hong Kong as the spouse of a person who has moved to the city for employment purposes.
The woman, who was not named during the court filings, entered into a civil partnership in 2011 in Britain. She joined her partner who had been offered a job in Hong Kong and was initially allowed only a visitor visa. Despite being refused a dependent visa in a lower court the decision was overturned at the Appeal Court on Monday. Crucially the judgement stated "Whilst one-ness, together-ness, joint-ness and mutuality are hallmarks of a heterosexual marriage relationship, they are not, or no longer, exclusive to such a relationship."
Hong Kong is a thriving metropolis that bans discrimination levelled against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, at the same time as not recognising same-sex unions which may seem a little paradoxical to some. This landmark judgement will almost certainly pave the way for more applications and allows the hope that same-sex unions will be recognised in due course in Hong Kong. Although such a step may be some way off at the moment, attitudes are changing. In 2011 a survey conducted in regard to the general viewpoint towards the LGBT community reported that 22% did not accept lesbian, gay or transgender people, with a further 21% who were unsure but surprisingly a quarter of those surveyed felt it was acceptable or sometimes acceptable to not of offer a job to an individual from the LGBT community. However, in a more recent study in 2016 attitudes had changed, whilst the study found that discrimination towards the LGBT community was widespread over half the respondents to the study were in favour of legislation against such discrimination, with 91.8% of the younger people in the survey, 18-24 years, indicating that anti-discrimination was a necessity, a notable shift in attitudes.
Whilst there may be a softening of their stance towards the LBGT community by many people in Hong Kong, when HSBC had their iconic lions that guard the building housing their headquarters painted in rainbow colours there was a sharp divide between supporters and detractors.
Slowly, even the most hardened regimes may well soften their stance in the future.
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