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Japan court rules in favour of same-sex marriage

  • March 17, 2024
  • 2 min read
Japan court rules in favour of same-sex marriage

A high court in Japan has ruled that the nation’s lack of recognition for same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. This move could further pressure the government to do more protect the LGBT community in the country. The Sapporo High Court upheld a lower court’s landmark verdict in 2021 that said that non-recognition of same-sex marriage had violated the right to equality under the constitution. However, it rejected a total of 6 million yen (£31,632) in damages sought by three couples in Hokkaido against the state.  

The ruling, the first of six lawsuits filed at five district courts, questioned the current laws’ lack of acceptance for same-sex marriage, adding that the provision violate both the right to equality under Article 14 and Article 24 which rules that marriage shall be only on the mutual consent of “both sexes.”

For the first time, the court ruled that the latter can be understood to ensure marriage between those of the same sex.  The clause had not anticipated same-sex marriage when the constitution was first enacted. But “it should be interpreted against the background where respect for individuals is more clearly considered,” Presiding Judge Kiyofumi Saito said in handing down the ruling.

It also ruled that “there would be no disadvantage or harm” even if same-sex marriage is legalised, including any social impact. Negative feelings towards same-sex marriage “are only due to sensuous, emotional reasons,” according to the ruling, which added that those feelings can be resolved with public awareness campaigns.

Japan is the only Group of Seven major industrialised nation that has not legalised same-sex marriage or even civil unions. But it has faced a growing pressure from the LGBT community and its supporters. One of the plaintiffs told a press conference in Sapporo that she was “encouraged by the forward-thinking” of the decision.

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