Japan court backs govt stand against same-sex marriages

TOKYO, 20 June 2022:

A court in Japan today said the government’s position of not recognising same-sex marriage is not unconstitutional, in what is a new setback to the legality of these unions after a different pioneering ruling a year ago.

The ruling issued today by the Osaka district court, in the west of the country, said “not allowing same-sex marriage does not violate the Constitution” and dismissed the request for financial compensation of ¥1 million (RM32,650) per person to three couples from the Kansai region.

The claim of these couples was based on Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution, which stipulates equality before the law and non-discrimination in political, economic or social relations for reasons of race, creed, sex, social status or origin.

However, the court pointed out the constitution does not recognise same-sex marriage based on Article 24, which defines marriage “based solely on the mutual consent of both sexes” – understanding that it can only be between a male and a female.

The latter is the provision used by the government to resist the legalisation of homosexual marriage.

Today’s decision represents a setback for the rights of these couples, after the Sapporo district court declared the executive’s position unconstitutional in March 2021, which it defined as “discriminatory treatment without a rational basis.”

At that time, three couples from the region decided to file the lawsuit after trying to register as married couples and being rejected on the grounds that same-sex marriages do not have legal status in the country.

Despite acknowledging the unconstitutionality of that interpretation, the Sapporo court also rejected the plaintiffs’ request for compensation from the state for the psychological damage caused by their reluctance to amend the law to legalise their marriages.

In addition to the class action lawsuits filed in Sapporo and Osaka, three other similar complaints were filed in Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka – which are still pending resolution.