Japan Court Upholds Ban on Same-sex Marriage

Tokyo: A Tokyo court on Wednesday upheld a prohibition on same-sex marriage but said the lack of legal protections for same-sex families violated their human rights, a comment welcomed by plaintiffs to Japan’s other G7 as a step towards aligning with the countries.

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not allow same-sex marriage, and its constitution defines marriage as based on the mutual consent of both sexes. Although Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling party has revealed no plans yet to review the matter or propose changes, several senior members support same-sex marriage.

In Wednesday’s decision, the Tokyo district court said the ban was constitutional, but added that the absence of a legal system to protect same-sex families infringed their human rights.

“This is a fairly positive ruling,” said Nobuhito Sawasaki, one of the lawyers involved in the case.

“While marriage remains between a man and a woman, and the ruling supported that, it also said that the current situation with no legal protections for same-sex families is not good, and suggested something must be done about it,” he added.

Japan does not allow same-sex couples to marry or inherit each other’s assets, like a common home, and denies them parental rights to each other’s children, while even hospital visits can be difficult. However, partnership certificates from municipalities cover about 60% of Japan’s population, they do not give same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The Tokyo ruling vows to be influential as the capital has an outsized influence on the rest of Japan. It had been keenly awaited after hopes were raised by a 2021 decision in the city of Sapporo that the ban was unconstitutional, although another decision in Osaka in June maintained the ban.

The eight plaintiffs in the case said the ban contravened their human rights and demanded damages of 1 million yen, although the court rejected that.

“This is hard to accept,” said Gon Matsunaka, head of the activist group Marriage for All Japan.

Both heterosexual and same-sex couples should be able to benefit equally from the system of marriage, as everyone is equal under the law, he added.

“It (the ruling) clearly said that is not possible.”

Yet the recognition that same-sex families lacked legal protections was “a big step”, he said.

The plaintiffs, who unfurled a banner outside the courthouse reading, “A step forward for Marriage Equality” after the ruling, said they were encouraged.

“There were parts of this that were disappointing, but parts of it gave me hope,” said one of them, Katsu, who gave only his first name. The decision came a day after the US Senate passed a same-sex marriage protection bill and Singapore lifted a ban on gay sex but limited the possibilities of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Two more cases are pending in Japan, and activists and lawyers hope that a collection of judicial decisions supporting same-sex marriage will eventually prompt lawmakers to change the system, even if it may not happen soon.

“I hope there will be legislative debate about this,” said plaintiff Shizuka Oe. “We will keep making efforts.”

The situation has limited the talent pool for global firms, as groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan have called for change.

“Thinking about the future of their lives, they don’t see anything in Japan,” said Masa Yanagisawa, head of prime services at bank Goldman Sachs and a member of the group Marriage for All Japan.

By Archana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *