The Nagoya District Court ruled it is unconstitutional to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages, but the judge stopped short of awarding $14,200 in damages to a gay couple from Aichi Prefecture who filed the discrimination lawsuit in 2019 after officials rejected their attempts to register as a married couple. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
May 30 (UPI) -- A Japanese court on Tuesday became the second to rule that Japan's lack of recognition for same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.
The Nagoya District Court found that the government did not provide an equivocal "framework to protect the relationships of same-sex couples" -- violating Article 14 of Japan's constitution, which guarantees equal rights and freedom from discrimination, and Article 24, which ensures the freedom to marry.
The ruling came in favor of a gay couple from Aichi Prefecture who filed the discrimination lawsuit in 2019 after officials rejected their attempts to register as a married couple. The judge, however, stopped short of awarding the couple $14,200 in damages.
Japan's civil law provides for privileges and benefits in the marriages of heterosexual couples, including rights to inheritance, tax credits and joint custody of children.
Much of the debate during the trial centered around ambiguous wording in the Japanese constitution, which states "Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes," which government attorneys argued applied only to marriages between a man and a woman.
The government has faced increased pressure to do more to protect gay rights as the country was trailing its more progressive allies on the issue, although smaller LGBTQ efforts in smaller municipalities had gained traction in recent years, with local authorities issuing legal certificates that recognize gay couples.
During the recent G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan was the only nation among the group without a law to prohibit sexual discrimination or to legalize same-sex marriages, although Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party submitted a bill to parliament this month that was intended to promote engagement with the LGBTQ community.
In March 2021, the Sapporo District Court sided with three same-sex couples in Hokkaido who argued their inability to marry legally amounted to a denial of freedoms and equality granted under Japan's constitution. At the time, several similar cases challenging the national gay marriage ban were being considered in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, while all the cases were still out on appeal.
The Fukuoka District Court ruling was expected on June 8.
The ruling by the Nagoya District Court judge becomes the first in the nation's history to acknowledge the violation of multiple constitutional articles over the issue of gay rights.
Last year, district courts in Osaka and Tokyo upheld the current law, although the court in Tokyo acknowledged the government's stance on same-sex marriages had gotten to a "state of unconstitutionality."
The nation's attitudes on LGBTQ rights were also shifting, with more than 40% of Japanese citizens supporting legalization of same-sex marriage.