HomeWorld NewsJapanese court rules same-sex marriage ban not unconstitutional

Japanese court rules same-sex marriage ban not unconstitutional

Plaintiffs hold hands after a district court ruled on the legality of same-sex marriages at the Sapporo District Court in Sapporo, Hokkaido, northern Japan on March 17, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo.

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TOKYO, June 20 (Reuters) – A Japanese court ruled on Monday that a ban on same-sex marriage was not unconstitutional, dealing a setback to LGBTQ rights activists in the only Group of Seven country that does not allow gay marriages. people of the same sex to marry.

The decision dashed activists’ hopes of pressuring the central government to address the issue after a Sapporo city court in March 2021 ruled in favor of a claim not to allow same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Three same-sex couples – two men, one woman – had filed the case in an Osaka district court, only the second to be heard on the matter in Japan.

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In addition to rejecting their claim that the inability to marry was unconstitutional, the court denied their claim for 1 million yen ($7,400) in damages for each couple.

“I actually wonder if the legal system in this country really works,” said plaintiff Machi Sakata, who married her US citizen partner in the United States. The two are expecting a baby in August.

“I think it’s possible that this decision will really pin us down,” Sakata said.

The Japanese constitution defines marriage as being based on “the mutual consent of both sexes”. But the introduction of partnership rights for same-sex couples in Tokyo last week, along with growing support in opinion polls, had raised hopes among activists and lawyers for the Osaka case.

The Osaka court said marriage was defined as only between opposite sexes and there had not been enough debate about same-sex marriage in Japanese society.

“We emphasized in this case that we want same-sex couples to have access to the same things as ordinary couples,” attorney Akiyoshi Miwa said, adding that they would appeal.

ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS

Japanese law is considered relatively liberal in some areas by Asian standards, but across the continent, only Taiwan has legalized same-sex marriage.

Under current rules in Japan, members of same-sex couples are not allowed to legally marry, cannot inherit each other’s property – such as a house they may have shared – and also have no parental rights over the other’s children.

Although partnership certificates issued by some municipalities help same-sex couples rent property together and have hospital visitation rights, they do not give them all the legal rights that heterosexual couples enjoy.

Last week, the Tokyo prefectural government passed a bill recognizing same-sex partnership agreements, meaning local governments covering more than half of Japan’s population now offer such recognition.

While Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the issue needs to be carefully considered, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party has not revealed any plans to look into the issue or propose legislation, although some party members favor reform.

An upcoming case in Tokyo will keep public debate on the issue alive, especially in the capital, where a local government opinion poll late last year found that around 70% of people were in favor of same-sex marriage.

Campaigners say legalizing same-sex marriage would have far-reaching social and economic implications and help attract foreign businesses to the world’s third-largest economy.

“Global companies are revamping their Asian strategy and LGBTQ inclusivity is becoming a topic,” said Masa Yanagisawa, head of prime services at Goldman Sachs and board member of activist group Marriage for all Japan, s speaking before the verdict.

“International companies don’t want to invest in a place that’s not LGBTQ-friendly.”

($1 = 134.8800 yen)

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Additional reporting by Rikako Maruyama; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Bradley Perrett

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