A Tokyo court refused on Friday to grant long-term Japanese residency to the American husband of a Japanese man. However, Judge Yoshitaka Ichihara ruled that Andrew High should be granted a ‘designated activities’ visa because of his marriage to partner Kohei.
The pair originally met when Kohei lived in California in 2004. They have been together for the eighteen years since.
However, during the financial crisis of 2008, Kohei could not find work and moved home to Japan. After two years of a long-distance relationship, Andrew High left his job in America and moved to Japan on a student visa.
The pair married in the US in 2015. Japan does not yet allow same-sex marriage.
In the years since he first moved to Japan, Andrew High has made five unsuccessful applications for long-term Japanese residency.
In 2019, he filed a lawsuit against the government claiming that the Japanese Constitution guaranteed everyone equal treatment.
“My understanding of the Japanese Constitution is that you can’t have laws that treat different segments of your population differently, and for me and Kohei, this is the most important part of the case.
“I don’t feel that I have a personal claim to live in Japan or the qualifications to be in Japan independently. We just understand ourselves, as I think many gay and lesbian people do, as being essentially the same as heterosexuals.”
Equality under the law
Judge Yoshitaka Ichihara agreed, pointing out that foreign same-sex married couples were sometimes allowed long-term Japanese residency.
“When it comes to residency, there is no logical basis for placing same-sex couples comprising a Japanese and a foreign national on an inferior footing to a couple comprising two foreign nationals. It is against Article 14 of the Constitution, which ensures equality under the law.”
The Japan Times reports the judge ruled that Andrew High should therefore not be denied a ‘designated activities’ visa. That will allow him to stay in Japan for up to five years. He can also apply to renew the visa.
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