Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022

Japan Court Says Same-Sex Marriage Ban Not Unconstitutional In Setback To LGBTQ Movement

The advocacy group Marriage For All Japan said the ruling is 'very disappointing and disappointing' and that they would appeal it in a higher court.

The rainbow flag being waved at an event in the Pride Month that's dedicated to the LGBT people
The rainbow flag being waved at an event in the Pride Month that's dedicated to the LGBT people AP photo

As the world observes the Pride Month dedicated to the LGBTQ community, a court in Japan ruled on Monday that the ban on same-sex marriages in the country is not unconstitutional, in a setback to the rights of homosexual people in Japan. 

The ruling is a reversal of an earlier ruling in March 2021 that said the ban was unconstitutional. The advocacy group Marriage For All Japan called Monday's ruling "a very disappointing and disappointing decision". 

According to Reuters, three same-sex couples—one male, one female— had filed the case in the Osaka district court, claiming that being unable to marry was unconstitutional. The case also demanded 1 million yen ($7,414) in damages for each couple. The court rejected all the claims. 

The group Marriage For All Japan, which campaigns for marriage equality, said in a Twitter post they would appeal the ruling in the High Court.

Japan remains the only Group of Seven countries that does not recognise same-sex marriages. Its constitution defines marriage as being based on "the mutual consent of both sexes", according to Reuters.

Monday's ruling said while the ban might go against individual dignity, it did not violate the constitution, according to AFP.

It reported, "From the perspective of individual dignity, it can be said that it is necessary to realise the benefits of same-sex couples being publicly recognised through official recognition," the court ruling said.

"But the present failure to recognise such unions is 'not considered to violate the Constitution, the ruling added, saying 'public debate on what kind of system is appropriate for this has not been thoroughly carried out'."

This is a setback to the movement for same-sex couples in the country, which are increasingly getting recognition short of marriage rights, and was enthusiastic after last year's court ruling that called the ban unconstitutional.

Kyodo News reported at the time, "Presiding Judge Tomoko Takebe sided with the couples who claimed the government was violating Article 14 of the Constitution that ensures the right to equality, describing as 'discriminatory' the government's failure to implement legal measures to offer 'even a degree' of marital benefits to same-sex couples."

Increasingly, municipalities are issuing partnership certificates to same-sex couples in Japan, allowing them certain rights such as living together and hospital visitation, but they are short of full rights that heterosexual people have. 

The Tokyo prefectural government passed a bill to recognise same-sex partnership agreements last week, which meant that more than half of Japan's population is now covered by such agreements, reported Reuters.

It adds that despite these rules, same-sex couples cannot inherit their partner's assets such as the house they may have shared and also have no parental rights over their partner's children.

While stating that they would appeal the ruling, the group Marriage for All Japan has highlighted that the court has not termed same-sex marriage constitutionally prohibited. 

"There are comments that the judgment is natural because the Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage, but the Osaka judgment clearly states that Article 24, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution does not prohibit same-sex marriage," said the group in a tweet as per its English translation.