Japanese court refuses to strike down same-sex marriage ban

A Japanese court ruling has upheld a ban on same-sex marriage after it was found “not unconstitutional.”

The Osaka court issued the ruling on Monday (June 20) after three same-sex couples – two male, one female – asked for the court to acknowledge the ban as unconstitutional.

The court declined, also throwing out the couples’ requests for 1 million yen (£6044) in damages each.

The ruling dealt a further blow to LGBTQ+ rights activists in Japan looking to raise pressure on the government to legalise same-sex marriage.

In certain parts of Japan, same-sex couples are able to obtain partnership certificates that help them rent together, but cannot legally marry, inherit assets, or share parental rights.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike announced in December 2021 that partnerships would be made available across the city. This is expected to be introduced in November 2022. The move brings the total prefectures that recognise the agreements to nine, covering more than half of Japan’s population.

After opinion polls had shown a steady increase in support for same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ activists and allies were hopeful that the case could create an opening for the discussion of marriage equality.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida has exercised caution, saying the “issue needs to be carefully considered.” His party has disclosed no plans to review the matter or progress the debate further, nor to suggest any legislation for the future.

After the ruling, plaintiff Machi Sakata shared her disappointment with Reuters: “I actually wonder if the legal system in this country is really working.

“I think there’s the possibility this ruling may really corner us.”

Lawyer Akiyoshi Miwa said they would appeal at the earliest convenience. “We emphasised in this case that we wanted same-sex couples to have access to the same things are regular couples,” they said.

It’s the latest major LGBTQ+ rights case filed in Japan.

In October, legal action was taken against against Japan’s archaic gender recognition rules by a Japanese trans man.

Currently, Japanese law requires transgender people to get sterilised before they can legally change their gender.

Gen Suzuki filed a request with a Japanese court to legally change his gender without having to undergo surgery. He said that he plans to get married, adding that it is “nonsensical that transgender people cannot enjoy marriage equality in Japan”