Japan court rules same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional

As the second court ruling in favour of same-sex marriage, the decision is likely to put pressure on the Japanese government.

Supporters in front of Nagoya District Court in Japan.
Image: @satokoysd (via Twitter)

Today, Tuesday, May 30, a court in Japan ruled that not allowing same-sex marriage in the country is unconstitutional. This makes the Nagoya District Court the second in the country to deliver a result in favour of marriage equality.

Being the second out of four cases that have been won over the past two years, this ruling is likely to add to pressure on the government to introduce marriage equality in the country. 

Despite the fact that over 300 Japanese municipalities, which cover roughly 65% of the population, allow same-sex couples to enter into partnership agreements, Japan remains the only G7 state that does not allow same-sex marriage and constitutionally defines the union as between a man and woman. 

These partnership agreements, however, do not grant the same rights as marriage. For example, partners cannot inherit each other’s assets and do not attain parental rights to each other’s children. The new court ruling has now acknowledged that such a partnership agreement is not sufficient.

Today’s decision was welcomed by activists and greeted with cheers from supporters waving rainbow flags outside of the courthouse.


Lead lawyer Yoko Mizushima told journalists and crowds gathered outside the court: “This ruling has rescued us from the hurt of last year’s ruling that said there was nothing wrong with the ban, and the hurt of what the government keeps saying.”

She is referring to a ruling by an Osaka court that concluded that there was nothing at fault with the ban on same-sex marriage and the fact that even though the majority of the population in Japan supports marriage equality the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) opposes it.

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno commented that the government was not of the opinion that the current marital laws are unconstitutional.

“With regard to issues surrounding the introduction of same-sex marriage, we believe it is important to pay close attention to the opinions of all parts of the public,” he said, making clear where the party stands.

Although the Government promised a law promoting ‘understanding’ of LGBT people before hosting the G7 summit this month, conservative opposition blocked the passing of the law, and only a watered-down version of it was submitted to parliament one day before the summit began.

Although the progress towards marriage equality and improved LGBTQ+ rights in Japan is slow, the government is facing increased pressure from other G7 members and from economic lobbies, which has a big impact on the world’s third-largest economy. 

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