For the first time, a Japanese court has ruled the country’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Judge Tomato Takebe of the Sapporo District Court said in his ruling, “Legal benefits stemming from marriages should equally benefit both homosexuals and heterosexuals.” Takebe added that the prohibition violates Article 14 of Japan’s constitution which bans discrimination “because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”
In addition to the emotional distress of being treated like second-class citizens, same-sex couples are also financially harmed by the ban.
Without the right to marry, same-sex couples have no parental rights to children, and can’t inherit their partner’s estate (houses, property, assets). Even for couples who marry abroad, without recognition in Japan binational couples don’t have access to visas which could force them to live separately.
The court case was brought by three same-sex couples who filed their lawsuit seeking financial compensation for the challenges they’ve faced.
While the plaintiffs won on the broader issue of the right to marry, Judge Takebe declined to grant their request for financial compensation.
Attorneys for the couples say they plan to appeal the ruling in regard to the damages sought for compensation.
Today's landmark decision in Japan marks the first-ever ruling affirming the freedom to marry in the country's history! Now it's time for the National Diet to finish the job – and extend marriage to all loving families in Japan! 🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/xE0g8Zhj8B
— Freedom to Marry (@freedomtomarry) March 17, 2021
The ruling doesn’t bring about any real change at this point, but with four similar lawsuits making their way through courts in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, it’s sure to help set legal precedent.
Japan is the only member of the G7 nations (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada) where same-sex marriages have not become legal.
In May 2019, Taiwan became the only country in Asia to legally embrace marriage equality.