Lesbian couple to sue Japanese government for right to marry

Lesbian couple Ai Nakajima—a Japan citizen—and her German partner Kristina Baumann got married in Germany in 2018

A lesbian couple is planning to sue Japan’s government in order to legalise same-sex marriage.

Japanese citizen Ai Nakajima and her German partner Kristina Baumann are set to join at least 10 other same-sex couples in filing a groundbreaking joint lawsuit in mid-February, according to Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

“We are facing a reality where a same-sex couple cannot get married in Japan. We would like to challenge the current situation.”

— Ai Nakajima

Nakajima, 40, and Baumann, 32, got married in Germany in September 2018, but their union has not been recognised by Japan’s central government.

Nakajima, who lives with Baumann in Yokohama, told the Asahi Shimbum: “We are facing a reality where (a same-sex couple) cannot get married in Japan yet.

“We would like to challenge the current situation with the lawsuit, which will also be helpful for a number of sexual minority people.”

There are currently 10 cities and wards in Japan which officially recognise same-sex partnerships, but same-sex marriage is not legal anywhere in the country.

Lesbian couple could face legal difficulties to stay in Japan

Baumann is living in Japan on a student visa which allows her to attend vocational school, but she may have to move back to her home country when she finishes her studies.

“If I cannot find a job after graduating from the vocational school, I will have to return to Germany,” she said.

The only legal recognition for same-sex couples in Japan currently is a Designated Activities visa. This visa extends to foreign same-sex couples who are legally married in another part of the world, but one of the couple resides in Japan. The law does not extend to a union between a Japanese national and a foreigner.

“For a foreign same-sex couple, whose national government allows same-sex couples to get married, one will be issued a specified visa for designated activities under the condition that their partner has already been residing in Japan and bringing them over,” Baumann told the Asahi Shimbum.

Lesbian couple Ai Nakajima and Kristina Baumann pose for a photo in Japan

Kristina Baumann may have to return to Germany if she can’t get a job, despite being married to a Japanese citizen (Ai Nakajima/facebook)

“A specified visa provides for more stability than a student visa. But it will not be issued for an international union of a Japanese and foreigner.

“This is unfair and discriminatory,” she added.

Not having legal same-sex marriage in Japan is unconstitutional, lawsuit set to argue

The joint lawsuit is set to be filed at four district courts in Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo.

It will state that Japanese same-sex couples’ inability to marry in the country violates their constitutional right to equality and freedom of marriage.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers said the lawsuit is the first one filed in Japan that seeks recognition for same-sex marriages.

Shinya Maezono, one of the lawyers representing the gay and lesbian couples, told national newspaper The Japan Times: “We want our call to be widespread so that the freedom to marry will be recognised for everyone.”

The same-sex partners are understood to also be asking for compensation from the government.