A court has concluded that Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage is not unconstitutional, inflicting a setback to gay couples and activists standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ community.
The Osaka High Court said that although Japan’s marriage law has several provisions to prohibit same-sex unions, they don’t go as far as legally defining marriage as a union between two individuals of the same sex.
As per Japan’s constitution, marriage is based on the mutual consent of both sexes and it should be maintained by the mutual understanding of both parties(husband and wife).
In March 2021, the Sapporo district court in Japan’s northern Hokkaido ruled the government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage violated the constitutional right to equality, though it had dismissed a similar claim for damages.
After a court in the city of Sapporo ruled in favour of an argument that forbidding same-sex marriage was illegal in March 2021, the decision destroys activists’ hopes of exerting pressure on the central government to resolve the problem.
Japan is the only nation in the Group of Seven (G7) to not officially recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions.
In the district court of Osaka, three same-sex couples had filed the case, only the second to be heard on the issue in Japan. The court dismissed their demand for 1 million yen ($7,400) in damages for each couple in addition to rejecting their argument that being forbidden from getting married was unconstitutional.
In 2015, local governments in Japan have been taking small measures to recognise these types of partnerships, for instance, by issuing “partnership certificates”, but these documents have no legal value.
Under current rules in Japan, Members of same-sex couples are now prohibited from officially getting married in Japan, and could not inherit each other’s property, not even any shared homes, and shared parental responsibilities for each other’s children. Some municipalities have issued partnership certificate that allows same-sex couple to rent their property and have hospital visitation rights, but they do not grant them the same level of legal rights as heterosexual couples have.
The prefectural government of Tokyo passed a bill to recognise same-sex partnership agreements last week, which means moreover half of Japan’s population is served by local governments that offer such recognition.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stated that the matter needs to be properly addressed, but his ruling Liberal Democratic Party has made no plans to examine the situation or propose legislation, despite the fact that several of its senior members support reform.
Tokyo will keep the debate over the matter alive, especially in the capital, where a late-last-year poll by the local government revealed that almost 70% of Japanese supported same-sex marriage.
Legalising same-sex marriage would give a comprehensive impact both socially and economically, and would help attract foreign firms to the world’s third-biggest economy, activists said.
Researchers claim that the path taken by the LGBTQ community in Japan is distinctive, in part because it has concentrated on issues of daily living that would benefit the community and avoided identity declarations etc.