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Japanese Courts Reaffirm Unconstitutionality Of Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Two recent rulings in Japanese district courts have further bolstered the momentum for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

This week, courts in Tokyo and Sapporo deemed the nation’s current ban on same-sex marriage “unconstitutional,” aligning with previous groundbreaking decisions.

The rulings, issued in separate cases, concluded that the ban violated citizens’ rights.

While activists celebrated the verdicts, they cautioned that the crucial step in legalizing same-sex unions ultimately rests with lawmakers.

Presently, Japan stands as the sole G7 country yet to fully recognize same-sex couples or provide them with comprehensive legal protections. However, within Asia, Taiwan stands as the sole territory to allow same-sex unions.

Although several municipalities and prefectures in Japan issue same-sex partnership certificates, granting some benefits, they do not afford equal legal recognition.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration has faced mounting pressure on this matter in recent years, fueled by a notable surge in public support. Surveys indicate that up to 70% of the population supports same-sex unions.

Despite this, Mr. Kishida has encountered obstacles in advancing reforms within his own party, encountering staunch resistance from traditional leadership.

As of now, his government has not disclosed any intentions to amend or review marriage legislation. However, it did enact a law criminalizing discrimination based on sexuality. Nonetheless, this legislation has drawn criticism from LGBT+ activists for falling short of recognizing marriage equality.

In a ruling on Thursday, a Sapporo court expressed a strong expectation that parliament would eventually “institutionalize an appropriate same-sex marriage law,” citing broad public support.

The court also emphasized that “living in accordance with one’s gender identity and sexual orientation is an inalienable right rooted in important personal interests.”

Since 2019, at least half a dozen legal challenges against the marriage ban have been mounted. In 2021, the Sapporo Court delivered a landmark ruling deeming the ban unconstitutional.

These cases have garnered close attention in a nation still largely shaped by traditional gender roles and family values.

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