Japan's Same-sex Activists demonstrating out a Tokyo District court/ Photocredit: Getty Images

Japan’s Court upholds ban on same-sex marriage, raises hope for same-sex couples  

A District Court in Toyko has upheld Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage as constitutional but says a lack of legal protection for same-sex couples violates their rights and is unconstitutional.  

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In March 2021, a Sapporo District court in Hikkaido, Japan’s northernmost Main Island ruled that Japan’s prevention of same-sex couples from marrying contradicted Article 14 of the constitution, which forbids discrimination based on race, creed, sex, social status, or family origin.

 However, on June 20, 2022, another court in Osaka declared that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage was constitutional and did not violate the constitution, adding that Japan’s constitution defines marriage as one between “both sexes” 

Upholding the Osaka court ruling yesterday, Wednesday, November 30, the Toyko District court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage but said that the absence of a legal system to protect same-sex families infringed their human rights.  

Japan is the only G-7 nation that still does not legally allow same-sex marriage nor allow same-sex couples to inherit each other’s assets or have parental rights. 

Article 24 of Japan’s constitution states clearly that “marriage shall be based only on the consent of both sexes” and recognizes equal rights between a husband and wife.              

How does this ruling affect the future of same-sex couples in Japan?

Speaking after the court ruling, one of the same-sex marriage lawyers, Nobuhito Sawasaki told journalists that the ruling signals hopes for gay couples in the country. 

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“This ruling was a fairly positive ruling, while the marriage remains between a man and a woman and the ruling supported that, it also said that the current situation with no legal protection for same-sex families is not good, and suggested something must be done about it,” He said.  

While Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling party has not made any move to review the ban or propose new changes to the constitution, many senior cabinet members are fronting for same-sex marriage.  

The Tokyo court ruling, which many believe has enormous influence on the matter, came as a surprise to the gay community in Japan after their hope was raised high by the 2021 Sapporo District court ruling.

However, they expressed hope and optimism saying the recognition that same-sex families lacked legal protection was “a big step”. 

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