An effort by a group of international law firms operating in Hong Kong to intervene in a lawsuit concerning visas for gay spouses has been denied by Hong Kong’s highest court, but the justices acknowledged in their denial that the Immigration Department’s policy to exclude same-sex spouse visa applications would narrow the talent pool for foreign employers.
A three-justice committee of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal on Monday dismissed an application made by 16 law firms operating in Hong Kong alongside 15 foreign banks and Amnesty International, seeking to join the litigation on behalf of a British woman referred as QT who is trying to obtain a visa to remain in Hong Kong as a spousal dependant of her same-sex partner.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma and Justices Roberto Ribeiro and Joseph Fok agreed with a lower court’s reasoning when it rejected a previous petition submitted by 12 banks to intervene in the case last year.
The justices acknowledged that the Immigration Department’s policy to exclude same-sex spouse visa applications would effectively narrow the talent pool for foreign employers. But it said the argument could be made without the law firms and banks intervening.
“We also note that the effect of the policy on the director of immigration’s aim of encouraging talented people to live and work in Hong Kong is a matter addressed in QT’s written case on this appeal. In the circumstances, we are not satisfied that the submissions proposed to be made by the [banks and law firms] will materially assist the court in respect of that argument,” the justices wrote.
The participating law firms, which included Latham & Watkins, Ropes & Gray and Clifford Chance, said in a statement issued by Davis Polk & Wardwell, which is serving as the law firms’ and banks’ counsel on the case, that they respected the court’s decision and were pleased to see the court’s recognition of the impact of the current immigration regime.
“The current immigration policy risks putting Hong Kong behind other jurisdictions,” the statement said. “We continue to believe that attracting world-class talent, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, to Hong Kong’s financial services and legal industries is essential to maintaining Hong Kong’s position as a pre-eminent international business and financial center.”
The Court of Appeal ruled in favor of QT after turning down the banks’ application to intervene. The Court of Final Appeal will hear the case on June 5.