Court says not allowing same-sex marriage is “ unconstitutional ” in a major victory for the LGBTQ community.
A Japanese district court ruled on Wednesday that not allowing same-sex couples to marry was “unconstitutional,” setting a new precedent in the only G7 country not to fully recognize same-sex unions.
More than a dozen same-sex couples filed lawsuits in 2019 to force the government to recognize same-sex marriage.
In the first lawsuit ruling, a Sapporo court dismissed a claim for damages of one million yen ($ 9,000) per person for being denied the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.
But the court ruled that the failure to recognize same-sex marriage was unconstitutional – hailed as a major step forward by activists.
“I couldn’t hold back my tears. The court sincerely gave its attention to our problem and I think it made a very good decision, ”a plaintiff told reporters outside the courthouse.
The ruling, the first in Japan on the legality of same-sex marriages, is a significant symbolic victory in a country where the constitution defines marriage as being based on “the mutual consent of both sexes.”
Individual municipalities currently issue partnership certificates to help couples renting accommodation and hospital visitation rights, but same-sex couples do not have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. They can’t inherit their partner’s property – like the house they may have shared – nor do they have parental rights over any children their partner might have.
By Asian standards, Japanese laws are relatively liberal – gay sex has been legal since 1880 – but social attitudes keep the LGBTQ community largely invisible and many have yet to speak to their families.
Some in the business world say that Japan does not allow same-sex marriage, making it difficult for businesses, especially foreign companies, to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce.
Last year, the US Chamber of Commerce issued a statement claiming that Japan’s position made it less competitive internationally as a result.
A number of companies have taken their own steps to circumvent the situation, including international companies and Japanese companies such as Panasonic. But there are limits.
“For things that are part of the national system, like pensions, there is nothing they can do,” said Masa Yanagisawa, head of main services at Goldman Sachs Japan and board member of the NGO Marriage for All in Japan. Japan.
“All the other advanced countries have that, so Japan will lose competitively. Then there is the fact that people cannot be who they are. It becomes very critical for the business. “