Same-Sex Couples In Japan Filing Valentine's Day Lawsuit For Legal Recognition

The LGBT+ couples are taking legal action tomorrow, in order to bring awareness to the challenges faced by LGBT+ people in Japan.

A lesbian couple cuddle their cat on a couch

13 LGBT+ couples living in Japan will be filing a lawsuit against the government to have their status as married couples recognised in the country. As it stands, same-sex couples do not have the right to marry, and this lawsuit, which will be filed on Valentine’s Day, will be the first legal action to challenge the law.

The couples include Ai Nakajima and Kristina Baumann who currently live in Japan, but got married in Berlin last year.

With regards to the status of LGBT+ couples in Japan, Baumann said:

“I want the Japanese people to notice that many LGBTQ people are part of society. Many haven’t yet come out and many struggle in relationships considered illegal.”

Baumann continued:

“Of course, if we could get married legally, that would be super. But first, the society needs to change.”

Same-sex marriage in Japan is considered to be unlawful, though, technically no specific legislature outlaws marriage between two people of the same sex. Government officials, have however interpreted legal marriage to mean the union of a man and a woman. Japanese law states that marriage is based on the mutual consent of ‘both sexes’. In 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that “the Constitution doesn’t envisage marriage between people of the same sex”.

These 13 couples, therefore, consider the ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. LGBT+ couples are offered partnerships in a number of municipalities in Japan, though these partnerships fail to offer the same rights and protections that heterosexual married couples are offered. 

Speaking on the bureaucratic challenges faced by same-sex couples in Japan, Nakajima said:

“In Japan, people in gay relationships are not legally recognised as a couple, hence they can’t qualify for tax deductions for dependent family members, can’t be added on health insurance programs and they struggle with jointly buying a house or taking out loans.”

She added:

“Quite often we have more paperwork to do than those who are legally married.”

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