Metro Weekly

Japanese Court Rules Gay-Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Advocates hail ruling as important step toward achieving marriage equality, which is opposed by the current government.

Tokyo Pride Parade, Photo: Patarajan, Dreamstime

A major Japanese court ruled that the current ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, a Japanese district court ruled that the government’s current policy of prohibiting same-sex marriages violates the country’s constitution. Supporters of LGBTQ rights say this is a step in the right direction toward marriage equality in the country.

According to Kyodo News, Judge Osamu Nishimura, of the Nagoya District Court ruled that the current system of marriage in Japan is unconstitutional because it excludes same-sex couples, thereby leaving them with no legal protections when it comes to issues like health care decision-making, child-rearing, and inheritance rights, among other rights and privileges that come with matrimony.

This is the second court ruling finding that the government’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, following a similar challenge from the city of Sapporo.

However, district courts in Tokyo and Osaka sided against petitioners in two other challenges to the existing marriage law. A fifth challenge is still pending in the courts. 

Both of the pro-LGBTQ rulings can potentially be appealed to the country’s Supreme Court, but have not been as of yet.

Lawmakers also have the option of amending the law to permit same-sex nuptials.

Support for the decision was seen outside the court as supporters waved rainbow flags and held signs saying “Another step towards marriage equality.”

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Asato Yamada, said that the current policy prohibiting same-sex marriage violates the guarantee of equal rights under Article 14 of the constitution.

 “It’s a major step toward achieving marriage equality,” he said. “The judicial branch, on behalf of the rights of minorities, raised its voice and it will be a strong message to the government.The message is that the government should resolve the problem immediately.”

Same-sex marriage activists say that Japan’s conservative government has been preventing equal rights that have been supported by the general public.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said that legalizing same-sex marriage would change Japanese society and values, and should be addressed with careful consideration. The prime minister did not express a clear position on a path forward, partly because conservatives in the government do not want Japan to legalize same-sex marriages. 

Currently, Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven, a coalition of industrialized liberal democracies that band together to address and propose solutions to major global issues, that does not recognize same-sex marriage or provide legal protections for LGBTQ people.

This has, in part, fueled pro-same-sex marriage supporters to call for an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ individuals.

This proposed anti-discrimination bill, which has not passed in the state government, argues that “unjust” discrimination is unacceptable but doesn’t provide specifics on things such as same-sex marriage or transgender rights.

Earlier this year, an aide to Kishida was fired after making derogatory remarks about LGBTQ couples in response to speculation about whether the government would take action to legalize same-sex marriage or pass the proposed anti-discrimination bill.

That aide, Masayoshi Arai, told reporters that he “wouldn’t like it” if same-sex couples “lived next door,” adding that he “doesn’t even want to look at them,” and speculating that Japanese citizens would flee their home country if same-sex couples were allowed to wed.

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