Tokyo – A Japanese court on Tuesday ruled the government’s policy against same-sex marriage unconstitutional, in a closely watched decision that supporters say is a step toward marriage equality.
However, the Nagoya District Court in central Japan rejected a request by a couple who stated that the government should pay them one million yen ($7,100) in compensation each for the unequal treatment they face because the current system does not recognize them as legally married.
The ruling is the second that the government’s disapproval of same-sex marriage has been found to violate the constitution, while two other rulings have not. Judgments can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Kyodo News reported that Judge Osamu Nishimura said in his ruling that the current system that excludes same-sex couples without legal protection for their relationship is unconstitutional and has no room for government discretion.
Supporters chanted outside the court, waving rainbow flags and holding up banners reading “One more step towards marriage equality”.
Asato Yamada, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said the court’s ruling clearly stated that disallowing same-sex marriage violates the guarantee of equal rights under Article 14 of the Constitution, and that Article 24 provides for freedom of marriage by not defining a same-sex ban. Sex marriage. “It is a big step towards achieving equality in marriage,” he said.
“The judiciary, in the name of minority rights, has raised its voice and it will be a strong message to the government,” he said. The message is that the government must solve the problem immediately. “
Rights activists say the push for equal rights that the general public supports has been hampered by Japan’s conservative government. Support for LGBTQ+ in Japan has slowly grown, but recent surveys show that a majority of Japanese are in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Support among the business community has grown rapidly.
Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven industrialized nations that does not recognize same-sex marriage or provide other equal rights protections for LGBT people.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that allowing same-sex marriage would change Japanese society and values and requires careful consideration. He has not articulated his opinion as conservatives in his party are vetoing legislation banning discrimination against LGBT people. Kishida said he will listen to different points of view and monitor court decisions on same-sex marriage.
Five lawsuits have been filed across the country since 2019 regarding marriage equality. Tuesday’s decision was the fourth.
A March 2021 ruling in Sapporo said the government’s denial of same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, while the Tokyo District Court ruled in November 2022 that it was not manifestly unconstitutional, but that the government lacked a rationale for the absence of legal protections for same-sex couples. couples. The Osaka District Court said in June 2022 that marriage under the constitution is limited to marriages between females and males and that a ban on same-sex marriage is in effect.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said in response to Tuesday’s ruling that cases are still pending and that the government will continue to monitor decisions.
LGBTQ+ activists and supporters have increased their efforts to achieve an anti-discrimination law since a former Kishida aide said in February that he did not want to live alongside LGBTQ+ citizens and that citizens would flee Japan if same-sex marriage was allowed.
After widespread outrage over the remarks, Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party introduced legislation to Parliament to promote awareness of LGBT rights. The bill, which has not been passed, states that “unfair” discrimination is unacceptable but provides no clear prohibition, apparently in response to some conservative lawmakers’ opposition to transgender rights.
“I hope the ruling will raise awareness among more people about the situation,” one of the plaintiffs, who was not named for fear of discrimination, told public broadcaster NHK. He called on lawmakers to respond to the ruling by taking action to create a society where people from different backgrounds can respect and help each other.