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  • Writer's pictureAna Clara Alvez

Japan court upholds constitutional ban on gay marriage — What now?

On June 20th, a Japanese court ruled that the prohibition of same-sex marriage is constitutional, representing a setback for LGBTQIA+ rights activists in the only G7 country that does not allow homosexual marriage. In March 2021, a court in the city of Sapporo ruled that it was unconstitutional not to allow same-sex marriage, indicating that these rights would soon be granted. The new, contradictory decision diminishes activists' hopes of increasing pressure on the Japanese government to resolve the issue.

Three couples, two male and one female, had a lawsuit rejected by a court in Osaka, which vetoed the civil union between them. The court also refused a request for compensation of 1 million yen (about $7 USD) in moral damages for each couple. The lawyer, Akiyoshi Miwa, said he would appeal the decision to continue pursuing equal rights for same-sex couples.

On the other hand, the Osaka court ruled that marriage is defined as being exclusively between opposite genders and that there hasn’t been enough debate about homosexual marriage in Japanese society to expand that definition. Under current rules in Japan, same-sex couples cannot legally marry, inherit each other's assets and also have no parental rights over their partner's children.

Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is one of the cities that adopted the policy of issuing partnership certificates between same-sex couples, which helps them with simple actions such as renting real estate together and having hospital visitation rights. But while partnership certificates issued by some municipalities help these couples in some ways, they do not give them all the legal rights that heterosexual couples enjoy.

The current Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, has said that the issue of homosexual marriage needs to be carefully considered in the country. But his ruling Liberal Democrat Party has not released plans to review the issue or propose legislation, although some senior members of the party are in favor of reform.

Activists have spoken out that legalizing same-sex marriage would have positive and far-reaching social and economic implications, and would help attract foreign companies to the world's third-largest economy. Furthermore, a government-sponsored poll in 2021 revealed that about 70% of Japanese are in favor of same-sex marriage. Therefore, the expectation is that Japan will move towards the reformulation of the legislation on this subject.

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