Ten same-sex couples to sue Japanese government over marriage equality

People attend the annual Tokyo Rainbow Parade in Tokyo, on May 6, 2018. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Ten same-sex couples will file a lawsuit against the Japanese government in a bid for recognition towards marriage equality.

The couples, who will file a joint lawsuit in February, reportedly argue that Japanese law doesn’t put into consideration the equal rights of same-sex couples and should be amended accordingly.

Article 24 of Japan’s Constitution states that “marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.”

Lawyers for the couples argue that the wording means that marriage equality should be officially recognised.

According to The Japan Times, The government has meanwhile indicated that marriage should only apply to heterosexual couples, arguing that the term “husband and wife” is used in the civic and family registration laws. The Japanese government are said to believe that this clearly refers to a marriage between a man and a woman and would, therefore, be unable to accept applications from gay and lesbian couples.

Shinya Maezono, one of the lawyers to represent the couples, said: “We want our call to be widespread so that the freedom to marry will be recognized for everyone.”

Japan is generally seen as an LGBT-friendly country, despite a country-wide lack of marriage equality

In Japan, eight municipal jurisdictions, including Fukuoka and Osaka, recognise civil partnerships but this is not yet a country-wide law. However, the country is generally seen to be supportive of the LGBT community.

The lawsuit follows the recent announcement that Tokyo would be banning anti-discrimination and hate crime to help protect the LGBT community as the capital gears up for the 2020 Olympic Games. The move was approved by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and is due to come into effect in April.


A couple takes part in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade in Tokyo, Japan (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

Despite this, Mio Sugita, an MP for the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, caused outrage in July when she said: “If we recognise different sexual interests, then it will lead to calls for allowing marriage between siblings, marriages between parents and children, or even marriages to pets or machinery.”

Sugita later said she “had no intention at all to discriminate against same-sex couples or to deny their human rights,” but refused to retract or apologise for her comments.

The ten couples are believed to be seeking compensation from the government. The lawsuit is due to be filed in district courts throughout the country, including Tokyo and Nagoya.