Gay Couples In Japan Have Filed A Lawsuit To Challenge The Country's Ban On Same Sex Marriage

They filed their lawsuit on Valentine's Day, which feels incredibly appropriate.

Thirteen gay and lesbian couples in Japan have filed a lawsuit challenging the country’s stance on same-sex marriage, claiming that it’s unconstitutional for the country to refuse to recognise same-sex couples.

It’s the first legal challenge of its kind in Japan, and it’s seen couples ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s bring lawsuits against the government in Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo.

The couples are seeking ¥1 million in damages, which works out to about $12,780AUD, as well as legal costs and  5% of the damages sought until payment is complete.

One of the plantiffs, Kenji Aiba, told the media:

“We’re not demanding anything special; we just want to have a chance to stand at the same starting line in our lives.”

He added that he hoped “this lawsuit will let us share the hardships of sexual minorities with all people in Japan and that it will help other LGBT people”.

In the lawsuits, the couples argue that ignoring same-sex marriages and letting officers in charge of issuing marriage licenses reject applications from same-sex couples is in violation of the constitution, and that this treatment has caused them emotional distress.

Makiko Terahara, one of the lawyers representing the couples, explained:

“In our lawsuit we want to point out the status quo is in violation of Article 24 of the Constitution that guarantees the freedom to marry — it states that ‘Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes’”. 

Terahara also argued that the denial of equal marriage rights violates Article 14, which states that “all of the people are equal under the law.”

While there are technically no laws banning same-sex marriage, previous governments have interpreted Article 24 of the constitution to mean that same-sex marriages are illegal.

Currently, 10 out of Japan’s 1,719 municipalities have enacted ‘partnership’ ordinances that make it easier for same-sex couples to rent together, amongst other things, but these are not legally binding.

Globally, just 25 countries recognise same-sex marriage, with Australia becoming the second country in Oceania to do so in late 2017.

Ellen Page Calls Out Chris Pratt For Attending An "Infamously Anti-LGBTQ" Church, AKA Hillsong

Hillsong has seen a huge increase in popularity amongst celebrities in recent years.

Following his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, during which he talked about his spirituality, Ellen Page called Chris Pratt out for attending an “infamously anti-LGBTQ church“, referring to none other than Australia’s very own Hillsong.

Pratt spent more than half of his ten-minute appearance on the show talking about religion, including his recent experience fasting for 21 days, as part of something called the ‘Daniel Fast’. Who is Daniel? I have no idea. According to Pratt, “Daniel was a guy who only ate fruits, vegetables and grains”, which inspired his pastor to do the same. It sounds like the Daniel Fast could also be described as ‘vegetarianism’, but whatever floats your boat, Chris.

But Ellen Page wasn’t into the lighthearted interview. Given she appeared on the same show just last week to defend LGBTQ rights, she clearly felt that Colbert should have asked Pratt about some of his church’s more conservative views.

If you grew up in Sydney’s Hills District, you probably already know all about Hillsong, but for those that don’t, it’s an evangelical Christian megachurch that was founded by Brian Houston and his wife Bobbie in 1983. They’re really big on singing.

They’ve also regularly been criticised for their ‘ultraconservative’ stance on gay people – a writer for The Daily Beast describes the church as having a “long history of rejecting and even self-admittedly damaging its gay and lesbian members”, namely as a result of their use of ex-gay programs that encourage gay people who are struggling with their sexuality to ‘pray the gay away’.

In 2015, the leader of the New York branch was criticised for saying that homosexuality is a sin and that a gay congregation member could never hold a leadership position. That same year, when two male choir members got married, Brian Houston released a statement assuring everyone that the church’s stance on gay people hadn’t changed, and that the couple had “not been involved in an active leadership or ministry role since”.

Despite these old-fashioned views, Hillsong has had no problem marketing itself to millennials, and in addition to Chris Pratt and fiancée Katherine Schwarzenegger, Justin Bieber and wife Hailey Baldwin, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner have all attended Hillsong services in the past. Does Hillsong have a policy on face tattoos?

In addition to the homophobia, Hillsong leaders do not have to take a vow of poverty. Writing for The Outline about why she left the church, Lea Ceasrine explained that what ultimately prompted her to leave was the ‘evangelical elitism’ – “the aspirational wealth and classism that ran rampant in the church’s community”. Considering its newfound appeal amongst cashed-up celebrities, its fixation on wealth isn’t surprising.

So, back to Ellen Page and Chris Pratt. While people, including celebrities, are of course entitled to their views and their private lives, it is more than a little concerning that in 2019, anyone would feel comfortable effectively endorsing the views of a church that has been accused of treating gay people so terribly. Although it’s not like it being 2019 means homophobia doesn’t exist anymore: gay people are being detained and tortured in Chechnya as we speak. Considering the homophobia that exists in the world, how could any compassionate person feel comfortable contributing to that?

Chris Pratt is no stranger to criticism. He’s previously been criticised for hunting for sport, as well as for trying to argue that Hollywood doesn’t properly represent blue-collar Americans.

While Chris Pratt’s support of Hillsong is disappointing, I think a more interesting and pertinent question is why and how Hillsong has become one of the go-to churches for so many young members of Hollywood, which is a famously liberal industry.

And I really, really, really want to know their thoughts on Justin Bieber’s face tattoo. No gay person would be caught dead with one of those.

Ellen Page's Passionate Defence Of LGBTQ Rights On Stephen Colbert's Show Is A Huge Mood

"It feels impossible to not feel this way right now."

Ellen Page appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday night, and while discussing the homophobic and racist attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett, delivered a passionate, and at times incredibly emotional and moving, defence of LGBTQ rights.

Speaking to Colbert, Page said “I’m really fired up tonight… it feels impossible not to feel this way right now.” She went on to talk about President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, particularly the latter’s record as Governor of Indiana.

“It feels impossible not to feel this way right now with the president and the Vice President Mike Pence, who wishes I could not be married, let’s just be clear. The vice president of America wishes I didn’t have the love with my wife. He wanted to ban that in Indiana, he believes in conversion therapy, he has hurt LGBTQ people so badly as the governor of Indiana.”

Fighting back tears, she goes on to implore people to ‘connect the dots’:

“If you are in a position of power and you hate people and you want to cause suffering to them, you go through the trouble, you spend your career trying to cause suffering, what do you think is going to happen? Kids are going to be abused, and they’re going to kill themselves and people are going to be beaten on the street.

I have travelled the world and I have met the most marginalised people you could meet. I am lucky to have this time and the privilege to say this. This needs to fucking stop.”

Pence has a history of supporting homophobic groups and causes. In the 90s, he was on the board of the Indiana Family Institute, a far-right group that campaigned against equal rights for LGBTQ people and supported the criminalisation of abortion.

When he ran for Congress in 2000, part of his platform was to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.”

In 2015, he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law – according to the New Yorker, this law essentially legalised discrimination against gay people by by businesses in Indiana.

Page’s point is that a direct line can be drawn between policies like the ones Pence signed into law during his time as Governor and attacks like the one on Jussie Smollett – the dots can and must be connected. Homophobic and transphobic legislation only serves to empower homophobic and transphobic people; it makes them think their views are okay, and that they have ‘permission’ from the government to act on those views.

Look at the impact Australia’s own same-sex marriage plebiscite had on the mental health of LGBTQ people. University of Sydney researchers found that “same-sex-attracted people who were more frequently exposed to messages of prejudice and messages of discrimination during the postal survey also reported more elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety, and also stress”.

Being exposed to hateful messages and experiencing an increase in levels of depression and anxiety should not be the price of being gay in Australia. Being violently attacked on the streets of Chicago should not be the price of being black and gay. Being shot at multiple times should not be the price of being a black trans woman in Houston.

I’m incredibly grateful to Ellen for using her platform to talk about these issues, and to encourage people to connect the dots. I’m also grateful to Stephen Colbert for sitting back and letting Ellen speak without interjecting or adding his own commentary.

And it looks like many others are feeling grateful, too:

Thank you, Ellen. ❤️


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