Japanese court determines same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional

The Nagoya District Court ruled on Tuesday that barring same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, which represents a major step forward for gay marriage in Japan, the only country in the G7 to not have that legally available for same-sex couples. Additionally, the court did not reject the proposal by a male couple that the state pay ¥1 million ($7,203.25) to each man in compensation for the legal system not allowing them to marry, per the Japan Times.

This is the latest ruling in four similar lawsuits. It comes after the Sapporo District Court’s groundbreaking verdict in 2021 that determined the nation’s Civil Code and family registration law, which do not recognize same-sex marriage, had violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equality before the law.

However, the Tokyo and Osaka district courts ruled twice in 2022 that the current legal system banning same-sex marriage was constitutional. The Japan Times did say that the Tokyo district conceded that the non-existence of a current legal system that does not recognize same-sex marriage is in a “state of unconstitutionality.”

The report noted that the plaintiffs in the Osaka, Sapporo, and Tokyo courts have all appealed the rulings after having their damages claims turned down. A male couple who filed a lawsuit in early 2019 suggested that non-recognition of their same-sex marriage is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

The same couple also claimed that Article 24 of the Constitution violates the non-recognition of their marriage, noting that it does not explicitly ban same-sex marriage.

Lawyer Yoko Mizushima said: “This ruling has rescued us from the hurt of last year’s ruling that said there was nothing wrong with the ban, and the hurt of what the government keeps saying.”

The government has apparently said that Article 24 does not presume marriage to include that of same-sex couples, as it states: “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.” Furthermore, the government said that refusing to legislate recognition of same-sex marriage is not unconstitutional, per the report.

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