Kopar Khairane

Japan's Supreme Court rules that the government's ban on same-sex unions is unconstitutional

The government's stance on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a Japanese court found on Tuesday.

Supporters have praised the decision as a milestone in the direction of marital equality. In contrast to two prior rulings, this second one determined that the government's prohibition on same-sex unions is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will hear appeals of the decisions.

Supp orters waved rainbow flags and held banners that said, “Another step towards marriage equality,” as they rejoiced outside the court.

The only industrialised nation in the Group of Seven to not recognise same-sex unions or provide LGBTQ+ individuals any equal rights protections is Japan.

What was said in the court decision?
The same-sex marriage ban enacted by the government is illegal, according to the Nagoya District Court in central Japan.

The court, however, denied a male couple's plea for the government to compensate them for the unfair treatment they endure since the existing system does not recognise them as legally married by awarding them each 1 million yen ($7,100).

According to Judge Osamu Nishimura's decision, there is no place for government discretion and the existing system, which excludes same-sex couples and provides no legal protection for their relationship, is unconstitutional.

According to Asato Yamada, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, the court's decision made it quite evident that prohibiting same-sex marriage violates Article 14 of the constitution's guarantee of equal rights and that, by omitting to mention it, Article 24 provides freedom of marriage.

It's a significant step towards obtaining marital equality, he said. The judicial branch spoke up on defence of minorities' rights, and the government will clearly hear from them. The message is that the issue has to be fixed right now by the government.

Japanese gay rights
According to rights advocates, the conservative government of Japan has obstructed a popular movement for equal rights.

Supp ort for LGBTQ+ persons in Japan has risen gradually, but current polls indicate that most Japanese support same-sex marriage.

Supp ort among the business community has grown quickly.

The only industrialised nation in the Group of Seven to not recognise same-sex unions or provide LGBTQ+ individuals any equal rights protections is Japan.

According to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, legalising same-sex unions will alter Japanese culture and values and need cautious thought. Because conservative members of his party oppose legislation that would outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, he has not made explicit statements about his position. According to Kishida, he would consider diverse points of view and follow court rulings on same-sex unions.

Equal marriage lawsuits in Japan
Since the start of 2019, five cases concerning marital equality have been filed nationwide. The choice made on Tuesday was the fourth.

The government's opposition to same-sex marriage was deemed illegal in a March 2021 judgement in Sapporo. In contrast, the Tokyo District Court concluded in November 2022 that the government's rejection of same-sex marriage was not definitely unconstitutional but lacked a justification. In June 2022, the Osaka District Court ruled that the same-sex marriage prohibition is still in effect and that the constitution only recognises marriage between female and male partners.

In reaction to the verdict on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said that the cases are still ongoing and that the government would continue to follow the rulings.

Since a former Kishida assistant remarked in February that he wouldn't want to live next to LGBTQ+ people and that people would leave Japan if same-sex marriage were permitted, LGBTQ+ campaigners and their allies have intensified their efforts to pass an anti-discrimination legislation.

As a result of the statements' significant condemnation, Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party introduced legislation to the parliament to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ rights. The measure, which hasn't been enacted, ostensibly in reaction to certain conservative politicians' resistance to transgender rights, declares that “unjust” discrimination is forbidden but doesn't provide a concrete prohibition.

One of the plaintiffs, whose name was withheld for fear of prejudice, said on NHK public television, “I hope the ruling will promote awareness among more people about the situation.”

In response to the decision, he urged legislators to take steps to build a culture in which individuals from all origins can appreciate and assist one another.

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