Fri, Nov 03, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Gay Games win puts focus on
banks’ LGBT rights push in Hong Kong

Policies that put LGBT people at a disadvantage hurt companies’ ability to recruit and retain talented employees, such as the territory’s unwillingness to grant same-sex spousal visas and benefits, financial institutions say

By Bruce Einhorn  /  Bloomberg

Illustration: Mountain people

Hong Kong’s selection to host the 2022 Gay Games puts the spotlight on calls by Goldman Sachs Group, BlackRock and other financial institutions for the territory’s government to make progress on gay rights or risk harming efforts to lure global talent.

Hong Kong beat Washington and Guadalajara, Mexico, to become the first Asian city to be awarded the Olympics-style event, held every four years.

Same-sex marriage is not recognized in the Asian financial hub, even after two court defeats earlier this year, leading to talented employees refusing to relocate to or remain in the territory.

Games campaigners hope more awareness will drive change in public attitudes toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“Having the Gay Games will be a great opportunity for people to step out of the dark and into the light,” said Dennis Philipse, head of the Hong Kong bid committee who went to Paris for Monday’s announcement.

The team cheered and drank champagne after the win, and planned a bigger celebration upon its return, he said.

“It’s a major step for Asia,” he said.

The push by financial institutions to ease restrictions on same-sex marriage came to light when 12 of them filed a court document in May on behalf of a lesbian from Britain who had applied for a visa as a dependent of her partner.

A court ruled in September that the government must allow her to legally reside in Hong Kong.

That follows a court ruling in April that a civil servant who married his husband in New Zealand, where same-sex marriage is legal, is entitled to the same government benefits for his spouse as his heterosexual colleagues.

Financial institutions in favor of granting the visa included Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, Nomura Holdings, Credit Suisse Group AG, ABN Amro Bank NV, American International Group, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, Bank of New York Mellon Corp, Societe Generale SA, State Street Bank & Trust Co and Royal Bank of Canada.

In March, most of the same companies, plus Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays PLC, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and JPMorgan Chase & Co, had called on the government to introduce legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It’s critically important that we have policies and benefits in place that allow us to be able to attract and retain the best talent,” said Claire Goodchild, head of diversity and inclusion in Asia for Morgan Stanley, declining to comment on the banks’ efforts to lobby the government.

Policies that put LGBT people at a disadvantage hurt companies’ ability to recruit and retain talented employees, said Bruce Larson, Goldman Sachs’ Hong Kong-based head of human capital management in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Denying access to certain parts of the population to participate in the talent market is not in Hong Kong’s best interest to continue as a global financial center,” Larson said.

Hong Kong’s unwillingness to grant spousal visas and benefits makes it difficult to convince people to move to the territory, said Harry O’Neill, a Hong Kong-based partner at Heidrick & Struggles International Inc, an executive search firm headquartered in Chicago, and joint chair of its regional diversity council.

“If you want to be Asia’s World City and attract global talent, then you need to keep up with what [the] norms are in other parts of the world,” O’Neill said.

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