NAGOYA – The Nagoya District Court on Tuesday ruled that not allowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, a large symbolic step toward marriage equality in the only Group of Seven nation with no legal protection for same-sex unions.
But the court, ruling on a lawsuit filed by a male couple in their 30s who reside in Aichi Prefecture, rejected their demand that the state pay each man ¥1 million in compensation for the current legal system not allowing them to marry.
The latest ruling, the fourth among five similar lawsuits, follows the Sapporo District Court’s landmark verdict in March 2021 that said the country’s Civil Code and family registration law, which do not acknowledge same-sex marriage, violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equality before the law.
The Osaka and Tokyo district courts ruled in June and November last year, respectively, that the current legal system banning same-sex marriage was constitutional. But the Tokyo District Court said at the same time that the nonexistence of a legal system recognizing same-sex marriage is in a “state of unconstitutionality.”
Plaintiffs in the Sapporo, Osaka and Tokyo courts have all appealed the rulings after seeing their damages claims dismissed.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the male couple, who filed the lawsuit in February 2019 after their registration of marriage was not accepted, argued that the nonrecognition of same-sex marriage constitutes discrimination that is banned under Article 14 of the Constitution.
They also claimed that the Civil Code and family registration law, which do not recognize their marriage, violate the Constitution, as the charter’s Article 24 regulating marriage does not explicitly ban same-sex marriage.
“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,” lead lawyer Yoko Mizushima told journalists and supporters outside the court.
The government has said that Article 24 does not presume marriage between the same sex as it says, “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.” Not legislating recognition of same-sex marriage is not unconstitutional, the government has said.
Though opinion polls show some 70% of the public supports same-sex marriage, the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida remains against it.
Over 300 Japanese municipalities now allow same-sex couples to enter partnership agreements, covering some 65% of the population. But the rights are limited in scope: partners can’t inherit each other’s assets or have parental rights to each other’s children. Hospital visits are not guaranteed.
Kishida in February sacked an aide who sparked outrage by saying people would flee Japan if same-sex marriage were allowed, but the prime minister remains noncommittal about it and has said discussions must proceed “carefully.”
Source: Japan Times