A Japanese district court found Thursday that the lack of legal protection for same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The Fukuoka District Court ruling comes amid growing pressure for Japan to protect same-sex marriage and a similar recent finding in another the Nagoya District Court.
The court stated that, under the current civil code and other laws, same-sex couples are unequally denied the benefit of marriage. Specifically, the court found that these laws violate paragraph 2 of the Japanese Constitution’s Article 24, which calls for laws to be based on individual dignity and equality of the sexes. Judge Hiroyuki Ueda pointed out that choosing who to marry and whether or not to form a family with them is a personal benefit that should be granted to all couples, not just heterosexual ones. He said, such a disadvantage to same-sex couples was not one the court could overlook.
Japanese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Marriage for All lauded the ruling as a victory for same-sex couples. The group has similarly applauded recent rulings from the Nagoya and Sapporo District Courts, which similarly found Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.
Amnesty International also celebrated the ruling, with their Japan’s Campaigns Manager Shinya Takeda saying the ruling shows “momentum for change is building.” A February poll from the Japan Times found that 64 percent of Japanese respondents believed same-sex marriage should be recognized.
The Fukuoka District Court recommended that measures be taken by the country’s legislature to correct the unconstitutional law. Japan is currently the only G7 nation not to recognize same-sex partnerships.
Currently, more than 300 municipalities in Japan allow same-sex couples to enter partnership agreements. Yet, these agreements offer limited legal rights. Partners are not permitted to inherit each other’s assets and have no parental rights to each other’s children. There is currently no national legislation in Japan to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.