Thirteen same-sex couples in Japan filed lawsuits against the government on Thursday (14 February) hoping to force it to recognize equal marriage.
The five female and eight male couples are challenging local administrations that denied them marriage certificates. They are seeking damages of US$9,000.
The couples argue the government’s stance on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. They filed cases in four different district courts.
Homosexuality is legal in largely-conservative Japan. But the government does not recognize same-sex marriage and there is no nationwide anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTI Japanese.
But, some local administrations offer limited rights to same-sex couples through ‘partnership certificates’.
Memorable Valentine’s Day
Ai Nakajima and her German wife Kristina Baumann filed their case at Tokyo district court on Thursday morning.
Ten other plaintiffs and 20 lawyers also joined them. Couples in Osaka, Sapporo, and Nagoya also planned to launch cases.
‘After submitting our case to the court, I started feeling how big an impact this case might have on Japanese society in future’ Nakajima told Gay Star News.
She also said she hoped it would become a ‘milestone’ for LGBTI Japanese. ‘It is a memorable Valentine’s Day’.
Rights group Marriage For All Japan launched the joint action.
‘Marriage is a fundamental right under the constitution, and this should be applied to same-sex couples’ the groups lawyer, Takeharu Kato, previously told Gay Star News.
Article 24 of Japan’s constitution says ‘marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.’
Significantly, Japan is the only country in the G7 not to recognize same-sex unions.
What’s more, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have campaigned for traditional heteronormative families. Its lawmakers are also notorious for anti-LGBTI comments.
’This violation of the human right of freedom to marry has continued for a long time’ Kato told Gay Star News. ‘Its time that the rights of LGBTI people are recognized’.
Kato said he expects the court cases to last at least five years.