Japan’s Failure to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage is ‘Unconstitutional,’ Court Rules

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On March 17, a court in Tokyo ruled that Japan’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Same-sex marriage in Asia is only allowed in Taiwan so there is much progress to be made for the LGBTQ+ community. Similarly, Japan is the only Group of Seven Countries to not recognize same-sex marriage. The plaintiffs of this case filed it on Valentine’s Day of 2019 and were among 13 couples who filed similar cases in 2019 in Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya.


This is a landmark in East-Asian history as, currently, LGBQT+ couples don’t not have the same privilege as heterosexual couples. This privilege entails co-parenting rights, file taxes together, medical visitation rights, and being able to make medical decisions for their partner. Although, recently, some municipalities have issued partnership certificates and more than 1,500 couples have signed up. These partnership certificates grant same-sex couples the same privilege that non-LGBTQ+ couples have.


The lawsuit was based on the claim that Article 24 in the Constitution states, “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.” Similarly, Article 24 explicitly states that it can only apply to, “husband and wife.”


Although it would be easy for the legislature of Japan to pass same-sex marriage, according to Kanae Doi, Japan director for non-profit Human Rights Watch they believe that with the current ruling party it would take several years as they are not in favor of it. Even so, this ruling is a huge step towards marriage equality, same-sex couples still need to face major prejudice since Japan has not instated an anti-discrimination law.