A recent court ruling in Japan’s Sapporo District Court has sparked some hope among LGBTQ+ advocates that same-sex couples may be allowed to get married in Japan at some point in the near future.
For context, Japan is the only G-7 nation that still does not recognize same-sex marriages. Unfortunately, this ruling by District Court Judge Tomoko Takebe, which held that prohibiting same-sex marriages violates Japan’s constitution, will not immediately change the law. However, Judge Takebe held that the Japanese constitutional protection in Article 14 banning discrimination “because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin” should be interpreted as protecting same-sex couples because sexuality is not a preference. So, the judge determined that barring same-sex spouses from the same rights afforded to heterosexual married couples, such as parental rights and inheritance rights, is discriminatory.
The underlying court case involved six plaintiffs who joined together seeking financial remedies from the Japanese government to compensate them for the pain and suffering they said they endured because they could not legally marry under the country’s current legal structure. The judge denied that request for damages, but the plaintiffs’ lawyers have indicated they intend to appeal the decision to a higher court.
Same-sex couples in Japan today who want to expand their families using surrogacy can legally do so, although surrogacy is not available in Japan today because the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology prohibits member physicians from engaging in surrogacy procedures. Because the country does not allow same-sex marriage though, same-sex parents are not automatically afforded parental rights for their children.
If Japan’s law banning same-sex marriage is ultimately overturned, Japan will be the second country in Asia to allow it, joining Taiwan which legalized same-sex unions in 2019.
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