Not recognizing same-sex marriage unconstitutional – Japan court

TOKYO: A Japanese court ruled Wednesday that the country’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, in a highly anticipated verdict.

More than a dozen same-sex couples filed lawsuits in 2019 seeking to force the government to recognize gay marriage.

In the first ruling on the lawsuits, a court in Sapporo turned down a request for damages of one million yen ($9,000) per person for being denied the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.

But the verdict seen by AFP said that the failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional — hailed as a step towards marriage equality by campaigners.

“I couldn’t hold back my tears. The court sincerely gave its thorough attention to our problem and I think it issued truly a good decision,” a male plaintiff told reporters outside the courthouse.

Japan is the only nation from the Group of Seven countries that does not recognize same-sex unions, and its constitution stipulates that “marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes.”

The government says this means same-sex marriage is “not foreseen” in the constitution or civil law.

But lawyers for the plaintiffs and other legal experts counter that there is nothing in the constitution that would prohibit same-sex marriage, arguing that the clause in question is centered around consent to wed.