Tokyo, June 20.
The case was filed by three same-sex couples in the district court of Osaka. The court not only turned down their appeal for their right to marry, but also imposed a fine of 10 lakh yen (about Rs 5.7 lakh) per couple on the three couples.
In March 2021, a court in the city of Sapporo, hearing a similar case, ruled that not allowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. After this, there was hope among the activists to put pressure on the government, but their hopes were dashed with the latest decision.
Gon Matsunaka, an LGBTQ activist based in Tokyo, said: “It’s very disappointing. After the Sapporo verdict, we were expecting the same or better verdict.”
(Read: Parents harassing gay couple, court rescued)
The constitution of Japan states that marriage is based on “mutual consent of both sexes”. But after Tokyo introduced partnership rights for same-sex couples last week, there was hope among activists and lawyers regarding the Osaka case.
By Asian standards, Japan’s law is considered a relatively free thought in some areas. But in all of Asia, gay marriage is legalized only in Taiwan.
Under current Japanese law, same-sex couples cannot legally marry, inherit each other’s property, and have no parental rights over each other’s children.
In some cities, municipalities issue partnership certificates to same-sex couples, with the help of which they get facilities like renting a house together. But this does not give them full legal rights like opposite sex couples.
(Read: South Korea: Historic Supreme Court ruling on military’s anti-gay law)
Last week, Tokyo’s local government passed a bill recognizing same-sex partnership agreements. Now the local governments, which govern almost half of Japan’s population, have given such recognition.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said that the issue needs careful consideration, but his party has not come up with a new bill or a new plan to reconsider the LDP case. However, some senior party leaders are definitely in favor of reform.
(See: Which countries allow same-sex marriage)
There is another case coming up in Tokyo, which means the public debate on this issue will continue. According to an opinion poll conducted last year by the local government in Tokyo, nearly 70 percent of people were in favor of same-sex marriage.
Activists say that recognizing same-sex marriage will have far-reaching social and economic implications for the country. It will also be easier for companies to attract and retain talented employees. It will also be easy to invite foreign companies to come to Japan.
“This is a great opportunity for Japan to regain its leading position in Asia,” said Masa Yanagisawa, head of Prime Services at Goldman Sachs. Yanagisawa is a board member of the activist group Marriage for All.
(Read: The number of people who consider themselves LGBT in America has doubled)
Speaking ahead of the Osaka decision, he said, “International companies are reviewing their Asia policy and LGBTQ inclusion is becoming a topic. International companies don’t want to invest in places that are not LGBTQ friendly.”
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japan court rules same sex marriage ban is not unconstitutional