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Japan court rules same-sex marriage ban ‘unconstitutional’

A court in Sapporo has ruled not allowing same-sex couples is 'unconstitutional' in a landmark ruling [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Japan court rules same-sex marriage ban ‘unconstitutional’

A Japanese district court on Wednesday ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is “unconstitutional” because it breaches the proper to equality, setting a replacement precedent within the only G7 nation to not fully recognise same-sex unions.

The plaintiffs are among 13 same-sex couples who filed lawsuits on Valentine’s Day in 2019 seeking to force the govt to recognise gay marriage.

In the first ruling on the lawsuits, a court in Sapporo turned down an invitation for damages of 1 million yen ($9,000) per person for being denied an equivalent legal rights as heterosexual couples.

But the court found that the failure to recognise couple was unconstitutional – hailed as a serious breakthrough by campaigners.

“I couldn’t twiddling my thumbs my tears. The court sincerely gave its thorough attention to our problem and that i think it issued truly an honest decision,” a male plaintiff told reporters outside the courthouse.

The couples decided to require action after they tried to register their marriages with local authorities in January 2019, but were refused on the grounds that couple has no status .

Individual municipalities currently issue partnership certificates to assist couples with renting places to measure and hospital legal right but same-sex couples don’t have an equivalent legal rights as heterosexual couples. they can’t inherit their partner’s assets – like the house they’ll have shared – and nor do they need parental rights to any children their partners may have.
The ruling, the primary in Japan on the legality of same-sex marriages, may be a considerable symbolic victory.

Issue of equality
At the guts of the lawsuit was the interpretation of marriage within the constitution under Article 24, which stipulates marriage to be based “only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued the article’s intent was to preserve gender equality and individual respect, and didn’t preclude marriage between same sexes, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

The government, however, has interpreted the article as applying solely to heterosexual couples, and indicated the term “husband and wife” refers to a person and a lady .

By Asian standards, Japanese laws are relatively liberal – homosexual sex has been legal since 1880 – but social attitudes keep the LGBTQ community largely invisible and lots of have yet to return out even to their families.

Some within the business world say Japan’s not allowing couple makes it difficult for companies, especially foreign companies, to draw in and keep highly-skilled labour.

The American Chamber of Commerce last year issued a press release saying that Japan’s stance makes it less competitive internationally as a result.

A number of companies have taken their own steps to figure round the situation, including international companies and Japanese firms like Panasonic. But there are limits.

“For things that are a part of the national system, like pensions, there’s nothing they will do,” said Masa Yanagisawa, the top of Prime Services at Goldman Sachs Japan and a member of the NGO Marriage for All Japan.

“All the opposite advanced countries have this, so Japan will lose out competitively. Then there’s the very fact that folks can’t be who they’re . It becomes quite business-critical.”

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