June 9, 2023 at 13:25 JST
Plaintiffs attend a news conference after the Fukuoka District Court's ruling on same-sex marriage on June 8 in Chuo-ku in Fukuoka.
How long does this nation’s legislature intend to continue ignoring a series of court rulings that acknowledge the legal ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional?
The Diet should start acting immediately to correct this injustice.
The Fukuoka District Court on June 8 handed down the last ruling in five separate lawsuits filed around the nation over the constitutionality of legal provisions including one in the civil code that do not allow same-sex couples to be legally married.
All but one of the district courts that heard the cases filed by same-sex couples ruled that these provisions are not consistent with the Constitution.
The suits were filed with the five district courts in Sapporo, Osaka, Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka. In 2021, the Sapporo District Court said the legal system’s rejection of same sex marriage violated the first paragraph of Article 14 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “all of the people are equal under the law.”
The Nagoya District Court took it a step further and ruled on May 30 that these provisions also violate the second paragraph of Article 24, which states laws concerning choice of spouse and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family should be “enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity.”
The Fukuoka District Court’s June 8 ruling echoed the Tokyo District Court’s decision in November last year, saying that the legal regime that rejects same-sex marriage was in a “state of unconstitutionality” in light of the second paragraph of Article 24.
The Osaka District Court in June last year handed down the only ruling saying these provisions are constitutional but referred to the possibility of them becoming unconstitutional unless proper legislative actions are taken.
All the rulings acknowledged the seriousness of the effects on same-sex couples of being unable to legally marry and called on the Diet to make proper legislative responses to the problem.
The institution of marriage is not simply about officially recognizing the marital relationship of the couple. It also concerns various rights, benefits and responsibilities, including tax benefits such as an allowance for a spouse and an inheritance tax break for a spouse.
Excluding same-sex couples from this framework means the government is discriminating against certain people.
This situation should be rectified as soon as possible.
In a news conference after the Fukuoka District Court delivered its ruling, one of the plaintiffs said, “We hope people will understand that this is a problem concerning our human rights and life.”
Eight years have passed since Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward introduced a system that recognizes same-sex couples as being in a quasi-marital relationship. More than 300 local governments have since introduced similar systems.
But there are limits to the legal protections provided by these systems.
The joint communique issued by the leaders of the Group of Seven leading democracies at their meeting last month in Hiroshima stressed their commitment to the cause.
The G-7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communique, drafted under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, said, “we commit to redoubling our efforts” to “achieve a society where … all people can enjoy vibrant lives free from violence and discrimination independent of gender identity or expression or sexual orientation.”
But the fact is that Japan is the only G-7 nation that has yet to legalize same-sex marriage. Japan is clearly behind its G-7 peers in tackling this issue.
In February, Kishida argued during a Diet session that legalizing same-sex marriage is an issue that would “change society.” But the Nagoya District Court ruling said it was difficult to imagine how the step could cause “specific disadvantages” for people.
The government should confront the shifting trend in Japanese society in recent years with the number of people supporting same-sex marriage increasing steadily.
The Diet is on track during the current regular session to pass a bill proposed by legislators to promote understanding of LGBT people.
The government should develop a road map for promoting the understanding of sexual minorities and eliminating discrimination against them, which shows a clear commitment to legalizing same-sex marriage.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 9
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