An American in a same-sex marriage recognized in the United States plans to file a lawsuit to obtain a residence status that will allow him to continue living in Japan with his Japanese partner.

Andrew High says his current status as a “temporary visitor” is unfair given his situation and prevents him from planning for the future with his partner.

His lawsuit is also expected to highlight “absurdities” in the Japanese legal system concerning same-sex marriages.

Under Japanese law, a foreign national in a heterosexual marriage to a Japanese national is granted spouse status upon entering Japan. However, foreign partners are ineligible for this status if they are in same-sex marriages, which the Japanese government does not recognize.

High said that rule represents discrimination based on sexual orientation and violates the constitutional guarantee of equality under the law.

High was involved in software development at a U.S. university in 2004 when he met his Japanese partner who was studying in the United States at the time. They began living together the following year.

In 2009, his partner found work in Japan, and since then, High has been living off and on in Japan.

In 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriages, the two were legally married in the United States.

They now live in a Tokyo condominium that the Japanese partner purchased. He works at a company to support himself and High.

High at one time established a company in Japan and was granted the residence status of “business manager.” But that meant he had to give up his position at the U.S. university where he had worked for many years.

High’s business faced financial problems, making it difficult for him to renew his status.

So he applied for the “long-term resident” status that is given to individuals who are deemed to require special consideration.

On five different occasions, he submitted applications, explaining that he should be given the status out of humanitarian consideration or due to changes in his social and economic circumstances.

However, he was turned down all five times.

In his lawsuit, High is seeking to have the court invalidate the rejections of his applications and to change his status to long-term resident.

“Since I have no idea when I will no longer be allowed to live in Japan, we cannot purchase the proper furniture,” High said. “I am always worried about what will happen one year from now.”

He said he only wants the natural right to live together with his family.

Another peculiarity of Japan’s immigration control law is that gay foreigners who have legally married and come from nations that both recognize same-sex marriages are often granted the residence status of “designated activities” when they enter Japan.

High and his partner do not qualify for this status.

“Because I am a Japanese, I cannot maintain our life as a family because of Japanese law,” the partner said. “I feel like I am being forced to leave my own country.”

In addition to legalizing same-sex marriages, many foreign nations have legal systems that give similar rights to gay couples as those provided to different-sex couples in terms of inheritance and social welfare services.

Of the Group of Seven nations, Japan is the only one without such legal measures recognizing the registering of same-sex partnerships.

In May, Taiwan approved same-sex marriages.

Other legal cases in Japan highlight the unstable status for foreigners in same-sex marriages that are recognized abroad.

A German woman has joined a lawsuit submitted by about 10 same-sex couples to recognize their status. Although Germany recognized her marriage to a Japanese woman, the woman had only a “student” residence status when she joined the litigation.

A lawyer in that lawsuit touched upon the absurdity of Japanese law in High’s case.

“The Japanese man would be able to live in Japan with High if he lost his Japanese citizenship,” the lawyer said. “The situation is one that goes beyond irrational.

“Since the Japanese legal system has not caught up with developments elsewhere, the government should grant him long-term resident status because that was set up to deal flexibly with unexpected developments.”

(This article was written by Tomoko Yamashita and Satomi Sugihara.)