Ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, Japan court rules


A Japanese high court made a landmark ruling on Thursday, saying the country's lack of legal support for same-sex marriage violates the constitution.

Key points:

  • Responding to a case brought forth by three same-sex couples, the Sapporo High Court in Tokyo deemed denying same-sex marriage as a violation of the fundamental rights of LGBTQ+ couples, reported the Associated Press.

  • Current civil union law defines marriage as between a man and a woman. While a significant step forward, the ruling requires legislative action as it does not compel government offices to recognize same-sex unions unless laws are amended.

  • Recent polls show increased public support for same-sex marriage, but the government has so far resisted change.

The details:

  • The ruling echoes sentiments from lower courts, with the Tokyo District Court issuing a similar verdict earlier, marking the sixth such decision nationwide.

  • While previous rulings criticized Japan's policy, none explicitly deemed it unconstitutional until the Sapporo High Court's earlier decision back in 2021.

  • The lack of legal recognition for same-sex marriage contrasts sharply with global trends, as Japan stands as the sole Group of Seven (G7) nation with such restrictions.

  • Public support for marriage equality has swelled in recent years, with advocacy efforts gaining momentum despite opposition from conservative factions within Japan's government.

  • Despite the growing clamor for change, Japan's ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party, has so far maintained a conservative approach to family issues.

  • U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel and prominent activists Kane Hirata and Kotfei Katsuyama have lent their voices to the push for marriage equality.

The big picture: Japan's conservative values, influenced by ties with religious sects and right-wing factions, have historically hindered progress on LGBTQ+ rights. The country has long upheld a law defining marriage as being strictly between a man and a woman, excluding same-sex couples from legal recognition and benefits. The newest court ruling is a step forward for Japan's LGBTQ+ community.

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