Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal has ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same spousals visas as opposite-sex couples, a decision activists say could help accelerate LGBTQ equality in the Asian city.
On Wednesday, justices ruled unanimously that a foreign lesbian couple—identified in court papers only as QT and SS—were entitled to spousal visas, overturning a previous ruling that would have prevented the pair from remaining in Hong Kong for work.
“This judgment is a milestone for Hong Kong and a watershed moment for the rights of LGBTQ people across Asia,” wrote Jan Wetzel, Senior Legal Advisor at Amnesty International, in a statement. “It recognizes that same-sex couples legally married or in civil partnerships overseas should be able to live with their partners in the same way as opposite-sex couples.”
Though Hong Kong has a vibrant queer community, the city’s government has backpedaled on LGBTQ rights again and again. In early June, officials denied a senior government official spousal benefits for his husband. And later that month, queer activists called out public libraries citywide for limiting access to children’s books with LGBTQ themes.
Advocates are hopeful that the July 4 ruling signals a push for LGBTQ equality.
“The government will face endless legal and political challenges if it keeps on stalling progress toward equality,” Raymond Chan, Hong Kong’s first openly gay lawmaker, told The New York Times.
Chan also penned a Medium essay urging Hong Kong’s government to introduce civil unions for same-sex couples:
I urge the Government to propose concrete plans and a timetable without delay to establish an institution of civil union, enact anti-discrimination legislation, and conduct a comprehensive policy review. It is time to act to safeguard the human rights of all Hong Kong citizens.