Japan: Courts Rule in Favour of Same-Sex Marriage


Rainbow Pride celebrations in Sapporo, Japan (Photo: Miki Yoshihito)

Two courts in Japan have made groundbreaking rulings asserting that the government’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

On Thursday, the Tokyo District Court and the High Court in the city of Sapporo separately made landmark decisions on two same-sex marriage cases.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that the current legal framework, which does not recognise same-sex marriage, cannot be reasonably justified in the light of the dignity of the individual and the fundamental equality of the sexes, and should be considered a violation of Article 24(2) of the Constitution.

Then, in Japan’s first High Court decision on same-sex marriage, Sapporo’s High Court ruled that the provisions of the Civil Code and the Family Register Act that do not recognise same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, as they violate Article 24(1) and (2) and Article 14(1) of the Constitution.

The Sapporo ruling is the first time the judiciary has recognised that the current law prohibiting same-sex marriage violates all three clauses of the Constitution.

It also found that “Enacting same-sex marriage does not seem to cause disadvantages or harmful effects.”

Japan is the only G7 (Group of Seven) nation that does not recognise or protect same-sex unions. A 2023 Pew Research Center survey, however, found that nearly 70% of Japanese people support same-sex marriage.

While the judgments do not in themselves legalise same sex-marriage, Amnesty International’s East Asia Researcher Boram Jang described the decisions as a significant step towards achieving marriage equality in Japan.

“The ruling in Sapporo, the first High Court decision on same-sex marriage in the country, emphatically shows the trend towards acceptance of same-sex marriage in Japan,” said Jang.

“By recognising that the government’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, these rulings make clear that such discrimination has no place in Japanese society.”

Jang urged the Japanese government to be proactive in moving towards the legalisation of same-sex marriage so that all couples can fully enjoy the same marriage rights.

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