Same-sex couples speak out in Japan’s first hearing on gay marriage

Banners during the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2015 parade.

In the first trial against Japan’s laws on same-sex marriage on Monday (April 15), LGBT+ couples spoke about how discrimination has influenced their quality of life.

Thirteen same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government in February, claiming that the government does not recognise same-sex marriage despite homosexuality being legal in Japan. They argue that the issues surrounding same-sex marriage goes against Article 24 of constitution, which says “marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.”

Legal issues faced by same-sex couples in Japan

According to the couples, they often face legal difficulties as a result of their sexuality or because they are afraid of revealing it.

“It would be the happiest thing in my life if my partner and I were accepted as a real married couple while I’m still alive.”

— Ikuo Sato

“The reason why they are unknown is because they do not want to attract attention in their lives. We don’t want their existence to be erased,” said Haru Ono, who has lived with her partner for for 14 years.

When Ono was told she has breast cancer three years ago she feared her partner Asami Nishikawa would be left with nothing if Ono died. This includes parental rights over their three children.

The hospital she attended allegedly wouldn’t allow Nishikawa spousal rights when Ono was a patient.

Same-sex couple in Japan: Japanese actress Akane Sugimori (R) kisses her partner Ayaka Ichinose.

Calls for Japan to legalise same-sex marriage are growing, with 13 gay couples filing a lawsuit on Valentine’s Day. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty)

Ikuo Sato, a 60-year-old HIV-positive man, said he believes he has fewer than 10 years to live and wants his partner to have spousal rights in the event of his death.

“It would be the happiest thing in my life if my partner and I were accepted as a real married couple while I’m still alive,” Sato said.

Without marriage same-sex couples are unable to help their partners in their time before death or attend the funeral.

One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, Shigenori Nakagawa, believes the trial could take up to five years before any decision is made.

Violation of article 24 of the constitution

The 13 couples filed their lawsuit on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

They are asking 1 million yen in compensation, an additional 5 percent more for each year it takes to complete the payment and the cost of the trial to be covered.