Japanese court rules against same-sex marriage ban in major win for LGBTQ+ equality

LGBTQ+ activists hold up a sign in protest of Japan's ban on marriage equality.

A court in Japan has ruled that not allowing same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

On Tuesday (30 May), Nagoya District Court became the second to rule against Japan’s banning of same-sex marriage, despite the country’s prime minister Fumio Kishida claiming the ban wasn’t discriminatory to the LGBTQ+ community.

Japan is the only G7 nation that does not recognise same-sex marriage.

The ruling – welcomed by activists and supporters outside the court – follows Japan’s main opposition, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), submitting a bill calling for same-sex marriage to be legalised

Lead lawyer on the case, Yoko Mizushima, spoke to journalists and supporters following the ruling, saying: “This has rescued us from the hurt of last year’s ruling that said there was nothing wrong with the ban, and the hurt [caused by] what the government keeps saying.”

Japan court voices concerns about human rights violations

Mizushima’s comment referred to a case in Osaka last June that ruled a ban on same-sex marriage was not out of line with the constitution.

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In November, a Tokyo district court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was constitutional, but that the absence of a legal system to protect same-sex couples is an infringement of their human rights.

Currently, same-sex couples are only able to engage in civil unions – and even then, only in certain areas, such as Tokyo – with Japan’s constitution stating that marriage is between a man and woman. 

While civil unions afford certain rights, couples cannot inherit assets, adopt, or even see their partner in a hospital if they are involved in a medical emergency.

Kishida came under scrutiny in February after one of his aides, Masayoshi Arai, reportedly made anti-LGBTQ+ comments, including that he “doesn’t even want to look at” married same-sex couples. 

Arai was promptly fired, and Kishida called the remarks “outrageous [and] completely incompatible with the administration’s policies”.

Public supports same-sex marriage

Calls for a marriage equality bill, along with anti-discrimination and other legal protections for LGBTQ+ people, increased following Arai’s remarks.

The aide’s comments triggered international public outrage and saw the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) begin preparing legislation that would promote understanding of LGBTQ+ rights – but not mandate them. 

Following this, Kishida sparked further outrage after claiming that “disallowing same-sex couples to marry [was not] unjust discrimination by the state”.

Kishida previously said that same-sex marriage “could change people’s views on family, sense of values and society”.

But the prime minister’s stance could result in his downfall. Polls show his approval ratings have halved to about 30 per cent since last year, and, according to a global Ipsos survey, at least 69 per cent of the Japanese population support legal recognition of same-sex marriage, with just six per cent opposing it.

In addition, 68 per cent believe same-sex couples should have the right to adopt, while 20 per cent do not agree with the proposal.

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