Japanese court rules same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional


same-sex marriage ban Japanese court
Image: @SPRrainbowpride Twitter

A Japanese court has ruled the country’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The Sapporo court ruled that the ban denies same-sex couples the equality guaranteed under the Japanese constitution.

LGBTIQ+ activists across Japan declared the court’s decision both a symbolic victory and a step forward.

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Same-sex couples across Japan are seeking damages in various district courts for the mental suffering caused by the denial of marriage equality.

Among the G7 group of developed nations, Japan remains the lone standout to not allow same-sex marriage.

Despite the ruling, the court rejected a compensation claim of one million yen for each of the plaintiffs.

Ai Nakajima, one of the plaintiffs, told the BBC the finding nevertheless moved Japan closer to same-sex marriage.

“This is one huge step forward in Japan… We are moving closer to making our dream come true.”

Japanese court ruling sets a precedent

The Sapporo ruling is the first verdict on the various cases currently before Japanese courts. Japanese activists believe the ruling will influence the verdicts that follow.

Journalist Yuji Kitamaru, an expert of LGBTIQ+ rights, described the court’s judgment as ‘well-crafted and very strategic’. He also said it laid ‘the first legal foundation against anti-LGBTQ theories’.

However, even if every district court rules the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, legalisation is not inevitable. The Japanese constitution defines marriage as ‘mutual consent between both sexes’. The Japanese government says the drafters of the constitution did not envisage same-sex marriages occurring in the future. But LGBTIQ+ activists deny that the phrasing only allows heterosexual unions. They say the drafters in fact intended the wording to prohibit forced marriages.

Marriage for all Japan described the ruling as a ‘real win’.

Meanwhile, Sapporo Rainbow Pride is planning their fourth Rainbow Pride celebrations in 2021. Last year saw scaled-back festivities because of the pandemic. But the organisation is recruiting volunteers in anticipation of a much larger party in 2021 with plenty to celebrate.

 

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