This article was published on March 30th, 2021
In 2019, more than a dozen same-sex couples filed lawsuits to have their marriages recognized by the governnment and last Wednesday, a Japanese court ruled that not recognizing such unions is unconstitutional. The verdict has been lauded as a huge step towards equality for the LGBTQ+ community as the stance towards gay marriage worldwide has shifted dramatically – currently Japan is the only country in the G7 not to recognize same-sex marriage. While there are municipalities in the country where certificates recognize partnersthips, the same legal rights are not granted to gay couples as heterosexual couples.
How the Case Came to Court
There were three same-sex couples that requested the Japanese government pay 1 million Yen for each person as acknowledgement of the pain and suffering caused for not being able to legalize their union. The Sapporo District Court refused the demand for damages, but the recognition for not allowing marriage as unconstitutional is heralded by many rights groups as a precedent and proof that progress is being made. There are several cases being heard in other courts within the country that are expected to be influenced by this outcome.
The Reasoning Behind Japaen’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriages
The current argument by the Japaense government is that same-sex marriage is “not foreseen” in civil law or the constitution. Legal experts, however, argue that there is nothing prohibiting it, and that the clause is actually based on consent to wed. Under the constitution, it states that a “marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes.” Legal experts say that the country’s stance on gay marriage has compromised Japan’s potential to attract talent to the country in comparison to other developed countries. According to the head of Prime Services at Goldman Sachs Japan, Masa Yanagisawa, “All the other advanced countries have this, so Japan will lose out competitively. Then there’s the fact that people can’t be who they are. It becomes quite business critical.”
Breaking Down the Current Situation for Japan’s Same-Sex Couples
The LGBTQ+ community in Japan still faces considerable challenges even as there is increased support among the public for same-sex marriage. Currently, same-sex couples are not allowed the same rights afforded to straight couples when it comes to their partner’s assets, and they also do not have parental rights towards the children of their parnter. Municipalities have enacted partnership ordinances which make it easier for some same-sex couples to rent apartments, but these are not legally binding.
There are many members of the LGBTQ+ community in Japan that continue to be marginalized, which has resulted in some gay people to hiding their sexuality to avoid prejudice or attack. As the situation in Japan continues to evolve, HomoCulture will be covering it as part of our international news.