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.