Same-sex couples in Japan have reason to celebrate after a judge ruled last week that the nation’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. The landmark ruling is a giant leap in the right direction towards marriage equality. Read on for the full story.
Same-Sex Couples in Japan Celebrate Landmark Ruling for Gay Marriage
The Sapporo District Court in Northern Japan just handed LGBTQ couples a huge win when they ruled that the government’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. While it’s not quite the same thing as actually legalizing gay marriage, it definitely helps pave the way to full marriage equality. Check out the video below, then keep reading to learn how the courts arrived at their decision.
As NPR explains, the case involved two conflicting Articles in the Japanese constitution. On the one hand, we have Article 24, which defines marriage as “mutual consent of both sexes.” Note the use of the phrase “both sexes,” as that’s what the government uses in their defense against marriage equality.
However, Article 14 bars discriminating against citizens due to “race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” Since sexuality is NOT a preference, the court ruled that barring same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional. As reported by the AP, Judge Tomoko Takebe said,
“Legal benefits stemming from marriages should equally benefit both homosexuals and heterosexuals.”
The ruling is only a partial victory
It’s important to note that the ruling is, at best, a partial victory, as the court upheld Article 24, stating that since marriage is defined between a man and a woman, no discrimination has occurred. Confused? Basically, the ruling means that while it’s illegal to discriminate against same-sex married couples based on Article 14, Article 24 states that only opposite-sex couples are actually married. It doesn’t sound like much of a victory, but for a nation that’s made LGBTQ people feel ashamed of themselves for generations, it’s actually a very significant first step.
Gon Matsunaka, director of Marriage for All Japan (and LGBTQ activist group, told AP,
“Until the ruling was announced, we didn’t know this was what we’d get and I’m just overjoyed. Its value is absolutely measureless.”
The ruling stems from a case involving one of 13 different same-sex couples who filed suits throughout the nation on Valentine’s Day in 2019. Sapporo, the largest city on Hokkaido (north of the main island, Honshu), is among the first to hear the cases, so this victory sets precedent for all that follows.
Japan is the only G7 Nation to Ban Same-Sex Marriage
Japan is part of the group of the seven richest nations in the world (G7), and the ONLY one of the group to not recognize same-sex marriages. A few cities and towns scattered throughout the islands do offer partnership certificates, but these certificates don’t give same-sex couples ANY legal protection beyond the abilities to visit each other in the hospital or share rental agreements. Furthermore, those certificates aren’t even legally binding in those cases.
So while the ruling doesn’t exactly change the status of marriage equality in Japan, given the nation’s long history of discriminating against LGBTQ people, it truly is a major step in the right direction.
What do you think? Does the ruling mean victory for same-sex couples? Share below.