When I was growing up, I wanted to be an actor, but my parents persuaded me to look into an academic profession. I applied to study Law at Cambridge, and became involved with the law society there. Through one of the society’s talks I met a Herbert Smith Freehills partner called Andre, who encouraged me to apply for the vacation scheme. I committed to a training contract and, when I graduated, worked as a paralegal for Andre before going travelling for six months, couch-surfing across the USA. Since then, I completed the LPC and started working at Herbert Smith Freehills – that was nearly a year ago now.
The case was QT v Director of Immigration, a pro bono project relating to a legal challenge by a same-sex spouse in Hong Kong against the Director of Immigration. QT is a British national. In 2011 she entered into a same-sex civil partnership with her partner SS in England. Later that year the couple moved to Hong Kong, where SS had an employment visa. After making a series of unsuccessful applications for a dependant visa, QT challenged in court the decision of the Hong Kong Director of Immigration refusing her application. The Director found QT ineligible to be considered for a dependant visa on the basis that she was “outside the existing policy”, which was to admit a spouse as a dependant only if he or she was party to a monogamous marriage consisting of one male and one female.
QT lost her first case but was successful in the Court of Appeal, who overturned the Court of First Instance. The Court of Appeal held that the reasons advanced by the Director in support of his policy were not logically connected to the aims that it was stated to serve, namely:
- to encourage persons with needed skills and talent to join the workforce in Hong Kong, accompanied by their dependants; and
- to maintain a system of effective and stringent immigration control.
The Director however appealed the case to the Court of Final Appeal arguing that the policy was lawful.
I assisted with Herbert Smith Freehills' application (alongside 15 other law firms, 15 financial institutions and Amnesty International) to intervene in support of QT's case. I worked closely with other lawyers in the Hong Kong office, as well as representatives from the other law firms to draft our application in support of QT. We argued that the policy affected our ability to recruit the best LGBT talent to work in Hong Kong.
QT was successful at the Court of Final Appeal and the Director's appeal was dismissed. The Court agreed with the Court of Appeal that there was no rational connection between the Director's stated aims in pursing the existing policy and the policy itself. To the contrary, the Court held that the policy clearly ran counter to the first stated aim of encouraging talent to come to Hong Kong, as that 'talent' could clearly be homosexual just as it could be heterosexual. While the Court did not seek the proposed intervening firms' submissions on these points they pointed to the arguments raised by the interveners in the final judgment by way of proof that recruitment would be hindered and not helped by the Director's policy.
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