A Hong Kong appeals court on Monday ruled in favour of a British lesbian, whose partner works in the city. It held that the British national, identified as QT, should be given a spousal visa – a landmark decision that could make it easier for gay couples to move to the financial hub, Reuters reported.

The Briton was earlier refused a dependant visa on the grounds that she was not a “spouse” because the city does not recognise same-sex marriage, The New York Times reported.

On Monday, the three-judge bench of the the Court of Appeal unanimously held that the director of immigration had failed to justify the “indirect discrimination on account of sexual orientation that QT suffers”.

While the legal definition of marriage was not challenged in the appeal, chief judge Andrew Cheung wrote that the “times have changed and an increasing number of people are no longer prepared to accept the status quo without critical thought”.

“Excluding a foreign worker’s lawfully married [albeit same-sex] spouse or civil partner...to join the worker is, quite obviously, counter-productive to attracting the worker to come to or remain in Hong Kong to work in the first place,” the ruling read.

The court ordered QT and the Department of Immigration to work together on an agreement and submit it to court within 28 days.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Taiwan in May, a first in Asia. In mainland China, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder until 2001, but it is not illegal to be gay.