YOKOHAMA--An international gay couple here applied for a marriage certificate at the municipal government office here on Jan. 16.

After their application was not approved, the Japanese-German couple plan to file a damage suit against the national government.

Ai Nakajima, 40, a company employee who lives in Yokohama, and Kristina Baumann, 32, of Germany, who attends a vocational school, got married in Germany in September 2018, following the registration of their partnership in Berlin in 2016. In Germany, same-sex couples were allowed to wed starting in 2017.

“We are facing a reality where (a same-sex couple) cannot get married in Japan yet,” said Nakajima. “We would like to challenge the current situation with the lawsuit, which will also be helpful for a number of sexual minority people.”

The couple also submitted their marriage certificate, which was issued in Germany, at the city office counter. Their documents are in the possession of the city and will be reviewed. But the couple are unlikely to be recognized as a wedded pair under the law.

Nakajima and Baumann believe that the prohibition of same-sex marriages violates the nation's Constitution. They are expected to file a lawsuit against the central government in mid-February along with more than 10 other same-sex couples.

If Nakajima and Baumann want to be listed as a married couple in the Japanese ancestral register, they need to report their marriage to a city office or consular office. However, marriage notifications of same-sex couples cannot be accepted as it is assumed in the Civil Law that the wedded pair are of the opposite sex.

Baumann resides in Japan on a student visa and is in a precarious position without a spouse visa.

“If I cannot find a job after graduating from the vocational school, I will have to return to Germany,” Baumann said. “For a foreign same-sex couple, whose national government allows same-sex couples to get married, one will be issued a specified visa for designated activities under the condition that their partner has already been residing in Japan and bringing them over.

“A specified visa provides for more stability than a student visa. But it will not be issued for an international union of a Japanese and foreigner. This is unfair and discriminatory,” Baumann added.

Lawsuits are expected to be filed at four district courts in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo. The plaintiffs argue that same-sex couples are prohibited from getting married, which violates constitutional stipulations such as equality under the law and infringes on freedom of marriage.

Their lawyers said that the lawsuits seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages will be the first filed in Japan.