A Japanese court ruled this week that a ban on same-sex marriage is not considered unconstitutional, marking a major setback to LGBTQ rights in the only Group Of Seven nations that does not allow same-sex marriages.
Three same-sex couples filed the original suit in a district court in Osaka. The courts rejected the claim that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, as well as rejected the couples demands for 1 million yen ($7,600) in damages. Machi Sakata, who was able to marry her partner legally in the US, spoke to the media about the ruling.
“I actually wonder if the legal system in this country is really working. I think there’s the possibility this ruling may really corner us in the community.”
Japan’s constitution defines marriage as “being based on the mutual consent of both sexes.” There’s been a major rise in LGBTQ advocacy throughout Japan as of late, leaving many citizens hopeful that this court case would rule in favor of the community.
However, the Osaka court ruled that “marriage is defined as being only between opposite genders,” and not enough debating has occurred within Japan to make a proper ruling over same-sex marriage.
“We emphasized in this case that we wanted same-sex couples to have access to the same things as regular couples,” said lawyer Akiyoshi Miwa, who also claimed they would be appealing the court’s decision.
While Japanese law in general is considered to be fairly liberal when compared to other Asian law standards, Taiwan is the only country to have legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in the continent.
The current law in Japan states that same-sex couples cannot get legally married, are not allowed to inherit each other’s assets, and cannot gain parental rights over each other’s children.
Partnership certificates in the country allow same-sex couples to rent property together and have hospital visitation rights, but it doesn’t compare to the full legal rights granted to heterosexual couples in the nation.
The Tokyo prefectural government made some strides in protecting LGBTQ rights last week when they passed a bill that would recognize same-sex partnership agreements. This means more than half of the population in Japan will have the ability to gain recognition for their partnerships from local governments.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida claimed that the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage needs to be carefully considered, however, his party has made no set plans to review the matter or propose new legislation.
Masa Yanagisawa is the head of prime services at Goldman Sachs and a board member for the LGBTQ activist group “Marriage For All Japan,” who stated that legalizing same-sex marriage would have “far-reaching implications both socially and economically, as well as help attract foreign firms to the world’s third biggest economy.”
“International firms are reviewing their Asian strategy and LGBTQ inclusivity is becoming a topic. International businesses don’t want to invest in a location that isn’t LGBTQ-friendly,” Yanagisawa stated before the verdict this week.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.