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Tokyo court upholds same-sex marriage ban, acknowledges human rights violation

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Participants attend the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade on the streets in Tokyo, Japan in April, 2019. File Photo by EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHER JUE
Participants attend the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade on the streets in Tokyo, Japan in April, 2019. File Photo by EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHER JUE

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- A Tokyo court on Wednesdsay upheld Japan's ban on same-sex marriage while denouncing the absence of protections afforded to same-sex couples.

Wednesday's decision was prompted by a case brought by eight individuals alleging human rights violations and seeking $7,200 in damages each.

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The court rejected the damages but emphasized that the lack of a legal system to protect same-sex couples creates a "state of unconstitutionality" that violates the plaintiffs human rights.

Presiding judge Momoko Ikehara said that the ban had "no reasonable basis in light of personal dignity."

Chizuo Oe, one of the plaintiffs, told a press conference "a state of unconstitutionality is a big step forward. I feel slightly relieved."

Takako Uesugi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told reporters the outcome wasn't an "outright victory" but "a significant step forward for the plaintiffs and for the country."

In Japan same-sex couples are not allowed to inherit property from each other or visit relatives in the hospital the way legally recognized married couples can.

Earlier this year Tokyo began to issue partnership certificates to same-sex couples which would allow them the same protections as married couples under certain circumstances, but the scheme hasn't been extended nationwide.

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While the Japanese constitution says "marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes," the ban on same-sex marriage is facing continued challenges in court.

In 2021, a district court in Sapporo ruled that the ban was "unconstitutional" but a court in Osaka upheld the ban in June 2022.

Marriage equality is a controversial issue in Japan but a 2021 poll conducted by NHK, the national broadcaster, indicates that 57% of Japanese citizens support the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Japan remains the only G7 nation not to recognize same-sex marriage.

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