Japanese court rules same-sex marriage ban constitutional

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TOKYO– A Japanese court ruled on Monday that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage did not violate the constitution and dismissed compensation claims from three couples who said their right to cohabitation and equality had been violated. violated.

The Osaka District Court ruling is the second ruling on the matter and disagrees with a ruling last year by a Sapporo court that declared the ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. It underscores how divisive the issue continues to be in Japan, the only member of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations that does not recognize same-sex unions.

In its ruling, the Osaka court denied the plaintiffs’ claim for one million yen ($7,400) in damages per couple for the discrimination they face.

The plaintiffs – two male couples and one female couple – were among 14 same-sex couples who filed lawsuits against the government in five major cities – Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Osaka – in 2019 for violating human rights. gratuitous union and equality.

They argued that they had been unlawfully discriminated against by being denied the same economic and legal benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy through marriage.

Support for sexual diversity has grown slowly in Japan, but legal protections are still lacking for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. LGBTQ people often experience discrimination at school, at work, and at home, causing many to hide their gender identity.

Rights groups had been pushing for the passage of an equality act ahead of last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, when international attention was focused on Japan, but the bill was canceled by the conservative ruling party.

The Osaka court said on Monday that freedom of marriage in the 1947 constitution only means male unions and does not include those of the same sex, and therefore the ban on same-sex marriages is not unconstitutional.

Judge Fumi Doi said marriage for heterosexual couples is a system established by society to protect a relationship between men and women who bear and raise children, and ways to protect same-sex relationships are still under debate audience.

The court, however, urged parliament to seek methods to better protect same-sex relationships, including options to legalize same-sex marriage.

Monday’s decision was a setback for activists who had hoped to put more pressure on the government after the Sapporo District Court ruling in March 2021.

The plaintiffs and their attorneys called Monday’s decision unacceptable and said they would appeal.

Akiyoshi Tanaka, a plaintiff, told a press conference that they had filed a lawsuit to gain support from the judicial process for Parliament to take action, but “the court prevented from making a decision” .

He said he would keep fighting. “We don’t have time to get discouraged,” he added.

Japanese public opinion is currently in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Under current rules in Japan, same-sex couples cannot inherit property, house or other property they share, and have no parental rights over each other’s children. They are often prohibited from renting apartments together, going to hospitals and other services available to married couples.

More than 200 municipalities across Japan, or 12% of the total, have started issuing non-bladed binding partnership certificates to same-sex couples since Tokyo’s Shibuya district became the first to do so in 2015.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government recently passed a plan to accept registrations starting in October from sexual minority couples seeking certificates of their partnerships.

Yet, it is not the same as a marriage certificate and does not offer equal legal protection.

Taiwan is the only Asian country or territory to have legalized same-sex marriage.

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