Photo/IllutrationA same-sex couple submits their marriage certificate at a counter of Sapporo’s Chuo Ward office on Jan. 23. (Nobuhiro Shirai)

SAPPORO--Two gay women here plan to sue in a nationwide campaign to seek recognition of same-sex marriages if the city office refuses to accept their marriage certificate submitted Jan. 23.

The women, one in her 20s and the other in her 30s, submitted the paper to Sapporo’s Chuo Ward office, but expect it to be rejected as there are no legal provisions for same-sex marriages in Japan.

They say same-sex couples being denied marriage would violate the constitutional principle of equality under the law.

At least 13 same-sex couples across Japan, including the Sapporo women, plan to file damage suits against the central government on Feb. 14. Experts said that these will be the first lawsuits in Japan seeking recognition of same-sex marriages.

According to Takeharu Kato, a lawyer representing the couple, their certificate is likely to be rejected because the current civil code and family registration law is based on marriage between men and women.

“It's unfair that same-sex couples are not able to enjoy the rights given to heterosexual couples," he said. “Marriage is a fundamental right under the Constitution, and this should be applied to same-sex couples.”

The women have dated for more than 10 years and lived together for five. As both are busy office workers, they find it hard to secure time to be together. However, they said just having dinner together, which is made by the woman in her 30s, makes them happy. Both wear shiny rings on their ring fingers.

A big concern for the couple is whether they would be treated the same way as married couples in an emergency situation such as if one had to be hospitalized. Without being legally acknowledged as family, a hospital may not even allow them to see their spouse.

Same-sex couples in Japan also currently have no rights of inheriting property or taking spousal tax deductions.

Sapporo city has a partnership system for same-sex couples, which the women have made use of, but it has no legal authority.

"There are no guarantees for us to have support when the need arises. We want to solve that by getting married,” said the woman in her 30s.

“I also want to raise my voice for the younger generation so they are able to imagine a better future,” said the woman in her 20s, who is involved in supporting sexual minorities.