Japan Court Says Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Constitutional

Japanese court ruled Monday that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage does not violate the constitution, and rejected demands for compensation by three couples who said their right to free union and equality has been violated.

Osaka District Court has ruled on this issue twice. This is in contrast to a Sapporo court’s decision last year that declared the ban on same-sex marriages invalid. This shows how divided the issue is in Japan. Japan is the only country within the Group of Seven that doesn’t recognize the existence of same-sex marriages.

In its ruling, the Osaka court rejected the plaintiffs’ demand for 1 million yen ($7,400) in damages per couple for discrimination they face.

The plaintiffs—two male couples and one female couple—were among 14 same-sex couples who filed lawsuits against the government in five major cities—Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Osaka—in 2019 for violating rights to free union and equality.

The couple argued they were discriminated against because they are denied the economic and legal advantages that heterosexual couples receive through marriage.

Japan is slowly embracing sexual diversity, though legal protections remain lacking for gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Many LGBTQ individuals are subject to discrimination at work and school. This causes many people to conceal their sexual identity.

Continue reading: What Asia’s LGBTQ+ Movement Can Learn From Japan

Rights groups had pushed for passage of an equality act ahead of last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, when international attention was focused on Japan, but the bill was quashed by the conservative governing party.

Monday’s Osaka Court ruling stated that the freedom to marry in 1947 does not apply to same-sex unions.

Judge Fumi Doi stated that marriage is for heterosexual partners. This system was established by society in order to preserve a union between women and men who have and rear children. However, there are many ways to safeguard same-sex relationships.

However, the court urged parliament to find ways to protect identical-sex relationships and legalize gay marriage.

Monday’s ruling was a setback for activists who were hoping to further pressure the government after the ruling by the Sapporo district court in March 2021.

The plaintiffs and their lawyers called Monday’s ruling unacceptable and said they would appeal.

Akiyoshi Tanaka, a plaintiff, said at a news conference that they took legal action to obtain backing from the judicial process for parliament to take action, but “the court stayed away from making a decision.”

He stated that he would continue to fight. “We don’t have time to feel discouraged,” he added.

Japan’s public opinion favors the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Under current rules in Japan, same-sex couples cannot inherit each other’s property, house or other assets they share, and have no parental rights over each other’s children. They often are prohibited from renting together apartments, as well as from accessing hospitals and any other service available for married couples.

More than 200 municipalities across Japan, or 12% of the total, have begun issuing non-legally binding partnership certificates to same-sex couples since Tokyo’s Shibuya district became the first to do so in 2015.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government recently accepted registrations beginning in October for couples from the sexual minority seeking certificates of their relationships.

This isn’t the same as a wedding certificate, and it doesn’t offer equal legal protection.

Taiwan is Asia’s only country and territory which has allowed same-sex marriage.

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