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Japan Court Rules Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Does Not Violate Constitution

The ruling overturns a 2021 decision from a lower court

A ban on same-sex marriage has been found to be not unconstitutional by a Japanese court.

Three couples who had filed a legal motion for compensation said the ban violated their rights to equality and free union. In 2021, a Sapporo court ruled in favor of the couples when it declared the ban was unconstitutional.

The Osaka District Court reversed the previous decision with its ruling issued on June 20. The district court found that Japan’s 1947 constitution only refers to the freedom of marriage for male-female couples and does not include same-sex couples.

According to translations of Judge Fumi Doi’s statements, Japanese society recognized marriage as a protected system for heterosexual couples who bear and raise children.

The court endorsed parliamentary efforts to explore and enact protections for same-sex couples including possibly legalizing same-sex marriage through future legislation.

“From the perspective of individual dignity, it can be said that it is necessary to realize the benefits of same-sex couples being publicly recognized through official recognition,” the court stated, per The Washington Enquirer. “Public debate on what kind of system is appropriate for this has not been thoroughly carried out.”

The couples had asked for 1 million yen ($7,400) each for the discrimination they faced due to the ban. The lawsuit was one of several filed by 14 same-sex couples against the city governments of Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Osaka, and Sapporo in 2019.

The couples claimed “that they have been illegally discriminated against by being deprived of the same economic and legal benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy through marriage,” per ABC News.

An estimated 200 municipalities in Japan issue partnership certificates but the documents are not legally binding and are not the equivalent of a marriage certificate. The certificates do secure same-sex couples certain privileges regarding housing and hospital visitations. 

After Tokyo moved to recognize same-sex partnerships last week, half of Japan’s population now lives in an area that recognizes same-sex partnerships.

While Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the issue needs to be ‘carefully considered’, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has not disclosed any plans to review the matter or propose legislation, though some senior LDP figures do favour reform,” per The Daily Mail.

According to Human Rights Watch, a nationwide poll found that nearly 80% of Japanese people support same-sex marriage.

Japan remains the only G7 country that does not recognize same-sex relationships,” the organization noted in March of 2021.

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