Court rules Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional – again

Participants march in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade on the streets of Tokyo, Japan on 6 May 2018

A district court in Japan has called the country’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, becoming one of several to do so.

The Sapporo court, in northern Japan, ruled on Thursday (14 March) that the civil code which limits marriage to between a man and a woman is “unconstitutional [and] discriminatory”, the BBC reported. 

Campaigners have long called for equal rights in Japan, the only G7 country (a group also consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US) which does not permit LGBTQ+ marriage.

The ruling follows courts in other parts of the country, including Nagoya and Tokyo, which have also declared the ban unconstitutional.

LGBTQ+ activists hold up a sign in protest of Japan's ban on marriage equality.
Protestors have long called for Japan to legalise same-sex marriage. (Getty Images)

“Enacting same-sex marriage does not seem to cause disadvantages or harmful effects,” the High Court said in its ruling on Thursday, and that it was “strongly expected” that parliament would “institutionalise an appropriate law” in the future. 

“Living in accordance with one’s gender identity and sexual orientation is an inalienable right rooted in important personal interests,” the court added.

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Japanese same-sex couples are able to engage in civil unions but only in certain areas, such as Tokyo.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida has continued to claim the same-sex marriage ban is not discriminatory to the LGBTQ+ community. He sparked anger in February 2023 after claiming that “disallowing same-sex couples to marry” is not “unjust discrimination by the state”.

Same-sex marriages “could change people’s views on family, sense of values and society,” he went on to claim. However, a recent poll found that 70 per cent of the population appear to disagree with him

Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage, in 2019.