A Japanese court ruled on Wednesday that the government’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, acknowledging same-sex couples’ civil relationship for the first time in the only Group of Seven nation that does not recognize it.
Despite the fact that the plaintiffs’ request for government compensation was denied, the precedent is a significant win for same-sex individuals and may have ramifications for other cases currently pending across the nation.
According to the Sapporo District Court, sexuality, like race and gender, is not a matter of personal choice, so barring same-sex couples from obtaining benefits granted to heterosexual couples is unjustifiable.
According to a copy of the ruling’s summary, “Legal benefits arising from marriages should similarly favor both homosexuals and heterosexuals,” the court stated.
Marriage should be based on “mutual consent of both sexes,” according to Japanese law, which is currently interpreted as allowing marriage only between men and women.
Though there is more recognition and support for LGBTQ people in Japan, discrimination still exists. Same-sex couples are not allowed to inherit their partners’ homes, land, or other properties, nor do they have parental rights to their children. More cities have passed “partnership” laws to make it easier for same-sex couples to rent homes, but they are not legally binding.
Many gay people conceal their sexuality because they are afraid of bigotry at home, school, or work in a culture where conformity is highly valued. In a culture where gender identity is highly specific, transgender people face additional challenges.
Since those who don’t fit have been overwhelmingly ignored, the drive for LGBTQ equality has slowed.
Six plaintiffs — two male couples and one female — demanded that the Japanese government pay them 1 million yen ($9,100) each for the difficulties they faced as a result of their inability to legally marry. The Sapporo District Court denied their request.
The plaintiffs and their supporters see the Sapporo court’s decision that the government’s ban is illegal as a significant win, setting a precedent for similar court cases and raising their hopes for a legal reform.
In Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka, four more cases are pending.
The refusal of Japan to give spouse visas to spouses of same-sex couples legally married abroad has become a growing issue, forcing them to live apart temporarily.
Last year, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan urged Japan to legalize same-sex marriages, claiming that talented LGBTQ people will leave the country, making it less competitive internationally.