Photo: Unsplash/Nick Karvounis

Japanese court: government refusal to recognise same-sex marriage is unconstitutional

The landmark Sapporo District Court ruling could be a turning point for LGBTQ rights in Japan

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

As of 2021, Japan is the only G7 nation not to recognise same-sex marriages, but a landmark court ruling made on March 17 could be the catalyst needed to change this. On Wednesday morning, the Sapporo District Court ruled that the Japanese government’s failure to recognise same-sex marriage is unconstitutional after three couples sued the state over the right to marry their partners of the same gender. 

Currently, same-sex couples in Japan are prohibited from registering as married, meaning LGBTQ+ individuals can only register their significant others as family members, effectively denying same-sex couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples. Gay couples in Japan, for instance, don’t have the right to inherit their partner’s assets or the same child custody rights as straight couples. While a handful of municipalities in some Japanese prefectures now recognise same-sex unions, landlords often refuse to rent to couples that aren’t married.

There are several ongoing court cases in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya pertaining to gay marriage rights in Japan, but this case in Sapporo resulted in the nation’s first ever judicial ruling on same-sex marriage rights. Though the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand for ¥1 million each as compensation for emotional damages, the final ruling is an unprecedented step in the fight for marriage equality in Japan. 

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