Social Issues

Court declares Japan’s rejection of same-sex marriage unconstitutional

Tokyo, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- A court in Japan on Wednesday declared the government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.

In the ruling issued by the Sapporo District Court in northern Japan, Judge Tomoko Takebe argued that the rejection of same-sex marriage constitutes discriminatory treatment without a rational basis and is against Article 14 of the Japanese constitution, which guarantees equality before the law.

The ruling could influence the debate on the nationwide recognition of same-sex marriages in Japan, where it is currently only recognized with limitations by some local governments, including that of Sapporo, which became the first city to issue partnership certificates to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) couples in June 2017.

The plaintiffs, two male couples and one female couple, are part of a group of 13 same-sex couples that filed lawsuits against the Japanese government on Valentine’s Day in 2019 in Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, alleging that a failure to recognize the unions violates the constitution, which includes freedom of marriage and legal equality.

Three other couples filed lawsuits in Fukuoka in September 2020 and Wednesday’s is the first ruling on the matter.

Supporters of the movement gathered outside the courthouse, holding rainbow flags and a large banner which read: “A big step towards marriage equality”, in celebration of the ruling.

The three couples in Hokkaido, where Sapporo is located, decided to file the lawsuit after unsuccessfully trying to register their marriage, which was rejected on grounds that Japanese law does not recognize unions between people of the same sex.

The Japanese government is reluctant to legalize same-sex marriages citing Article 24 of the country’s constitution, which defines marriage as a union “based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.”

Despite acknowledging the unconstitutionality of that interpretation, the Sapporo court rejected the plaintiffs’ petition for compensation from the government for psychological harm caused by its reluctance to amend the law to legalize their marriages. EFE-EPA


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