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Japan’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage Has Been Found To Be Unconstitutional By A High Court For The First Time

The court said banning same-sex marriage is an act of discrimination that lacks rationality, and legalizing it would not result in any harm to anyone.

In a win for LGBTQ rights, Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage has been found to be unconstitutional by a high court for the first time.

japan lgbtq pride same sex marriage couple kiss
Participants kiss during the march in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade on the streets of Tokyo, Japan, 06 May 2018. (Photo by Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In Japan, the constitution defines marriage as one of “mutual consent between both sexes,” which has been commonly understood as not permitting same-sex marriage.

trans sterilization unconstitutional parade in japan
Participants march in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade on the streets of Tokyo, Japan, 06 May 2018. (Photo by Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The decision comes after three same-sex couples in the district of Sapporo brought forward a case in 2019, demanding the right to get married.

japan parade on trans sterilization unconstitutional
Participants in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade march through the streets of Shibuya district on April 28, 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images)

The couples argued that the government was violating their constitutional right to equality by banning same-sex marriage.

japan same sex marriage brides
Participants dressed in wedding clothes march in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade on the streets of Tokyo, Japan, 06 May 2018. (Photo by Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

They also demanded one million yen (US$9,000) per person as compensation for services and benefits that married couples are entitled to.

A court then ruled in 2021 that the ban was unconstitutional, but rejected their claims for compensation.

trans sterilization japan unconstitutional
People take part in a rally organised by an activist group to support the LGBT legislation in Shibuya district of Tokyo on June 6, 2021. (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

The couples then appealed the decision to a higher court.

And on Thursday Mar. 14, the high court in Sapporo found that denying same-sex couples the right to get married is a violation of human rights.

The court said banning same-sex marriage is an act of discrimination that lacks rationality, and legalizing it would not result in any harm to anyone.

tokyo same sex partnership certificate family
TOPSHOT – Mamiko Moda (L) and her partner Satoko Nagamura with their son holds a same-sex partnership certificate as they pose for a photograph after a press conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Tokyo on November 1, 2022. – (Photo by Yuichi YAMAZAKI / AFP) (Photo by YUICHI YAMAZAKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“The ruling clearly stated that same-sex couples have the same right as others and deserve to live in this country, and reminded me it’s okay just to be me,” Eri Nakaya, one of the couples who brought forward the lawsuit, said, according to AP.

japan lgbtq pride grandma
Participants march in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade on the streets of Tokyo, Japan, 28 April 2019. (Photo by Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

This is the first decision from a high court on same-sex marriage in Japan.

On the same day, the Tokyo District Court also ruled that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

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Before this, five other lower courts had issued decisions on Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage, with four finding it unconstitutional, and one finding it constitutional.

Amnesty International called the ruling “groundbreaking”, saying it marks a significant step towards achieving marriage equality in Japan.

Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage found to be unconstitutional by a high court
Plaintiffs and supporters react in front of the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo on November 30, 2022, following a ruling in a lawsuit filed by same-sex couples seeking damages from the government. (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)

However, the Sapporo high court does not have the power to overturn the current marriage law, meaning that government offices can still deny marriage to same-sex partners.

japan same sex marriage ban unconstitutional nagoya
Supporters of same-sex marriage rejoice on May 30, 2023, after the Nagoya District Court in central Japan ruled that the lack of legal recognition of such marriage is unconstitutional. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo NO USE JAPAN

Japan is the only G7 country that still does not recognize same-sex marriage.

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