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The High Court  in Hong Kong has rejected a judicial review application by a British lesbian who challenged the Immigration Department’s refusal to recognise overseas same-sex marriages and grant her a dependent visa.

QT, as she is referred to in court, entered into a civil partnership in Britain in 2011 and moved to Hong Kong the same year, after her partner was offered a job in the city.

But she was denied a dependent visa and has instead stayed in Hong Kong on a visitor visa, which does not allow her to work.

The court granted permission for a judicial review, but the application was ultimately rejected by Justice Thomas Au on Friday afternoon. The judge said that there was no discrimination by the Director of Immigration on grounds of sexual orientation, and that – if the director had decided differently – it would have, in fact, been unlawful because of the way marriage was defined under the Marriage Ordinance.

Michael Vidler, the solicitor representing QT, said on Facebook that the applicant will be appealing the ruling. “This decision, whilst disappointing, is not altogether unexpected. Experience has shown us with previous LGBTI cases… that we often have to turn to the Court of Appeal or even the Court of Final Appeal for a correct judgment.

“QT is a strong young woman who is determined to continue the fight to ensure that all people who have shown their love for one another by registering a civil partnership or marriage, are treated equally by the HK government, irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

The Hong Kong Free Press also reports that LGBT activist groups have also expressed disappointment at the ruling.

“The judgment continues the government policy which perpetuates the separation of overseas gay and lesbian couples who intend to come to work in Hong Kong,” said Billy Leung, Vice-chair of the Pink Alliance. “It sends a message to gay and lesbian couples that if you’re gay, you’re not welcome. And this is not the message we want to be giving when you want to attract the brightest talents to Hong Kong.”

Immigration law in the former British colony does not explicitly mention gay couples, but states that only the “spouse” of a person permitted to work in the territory may apply for a dependent visa.

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