Japanese court upholds ban on same-sex marriage

Gay rights campaigners have received a major blow after a Japanese court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage is not unconstitutional.

Three same-sex couples,  two male, one female – had filed the case in the Osaka district court in Japan, which is the only Group of Seven nation that does not allow people of the same gender to marry.

In addition to rejecting their claim that being unable to marry was unconstitutional, the court also threw out their demands for 1 million yen ($7,414) in damages for each couple, Mail Online reports.

It was not immediately clear whether the plaintiffs planned to appeal the case, only the second to be heard on the issue in Japan. 

‘This is awful, just awful,’ an unidentified female plaintiff said outside the courthouse in footage shown on public broadcaster NHK after the ruling, her voice cracking. 

This comes after a Sapporo court in March 2021 decided in favour of a claim that not allowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

The latest ruling triggered a surge of comments in social media in the country, where public support for same-sex marriage has been increasing in opinion polls.

‘Unbelievable,’ tweeted one lawyer working on third case on the issue being heard in Tokyo, with a verdict due later this year.

Japan’s constitution defines marriage as being based on ‘the mutual consent of both sexes’. 

But the introduction of partnership rights for same-sex couples in the capital of Tokyo last week, along with rising support in polls, had increased activists’ and lawyers’ hopes for the Osaka case.

Under the current rules in Japan, same-sex couples are not allowed to legally marry, can’t inherit their partner’s assets – such as the house they may have shared – and also have no parental rights over their partner’s children.

Though partnership certificates issued by some individual municipalities help same-sex couples to rent a place together and have hospital visitation rights, they don’t give them the full legal rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

While Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the issue needs to be ‘carefully considered’, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has not disclosed any plans to review the matter or propose legislation.

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