High Court Rules Same-Sex Marriage Denial Unconstitutional

Jiji Press
Plaintiffs hold a banner calling for the immediate realization of marriage equality following a district court ruling in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday.

SAPPORO/TOKYO (Jiji Press)— Sapporo High Court on Thursday ruled that existing provisions, including those in the Civil Code, that do not recognize same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

Presiding Judge Kiyofumi Saito said that the provisions violate the first sentence of the Constitution’s Article 24 that guarantees the freedom of marriage, while dismissing the plaintiffs’ claim for compensation.

In the lawsuit, three same-sex couples in Hokkaido claimed that the provisions violate the Constitution guaranteeing the freedom of marriage and sought damages of ¥1 million each from the central government.

It was the first high court ruling in a series of lawsuits filed with five district courts across the country over the provisions.

Also on Thursday, Tokyo District Court issued its second ruling finding that the provisions are in a state of unconstitutionality.

In six rulings handed down by the five district courts, the provisions have been found unconstitutional by Sapporo and Nagoya district courts and constitutional by Osaka District Court. Rulings by Fukuoka District Court and Tokyo District Court found the provisions to be in a state of unconstitutionality.

All the six rulings rejected the plaintiffs’ damages claims against the state, while finding that the provisions conform with the first sentence of Article 24.

In Thursday’s ruling at Tokyo District Court, Presiding Judge Tomoyuki Tobisawa said that there is no system that gives same-sex couples legal benefits from marriage, which is “nothing less than depriving same-sex couples of their important personal interests of living in accordance with their gender identity and sexual orientation.”

But the judge determined that the current situation does not immediately violate the second sentence of the Constitution’s Article 24, which calls for legislation based on the dignity of individuals, saying that it is “left to the discretion of the Diet to design a beneficial system.”

Tobisawa rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that the provisions violate the freedom of marriage guaranteed by the first sentence of Article 24 and equality under law guaranteed by the first sentence of Article 14.

Tobisawa said that due to changes in public awareness, Japan is becoming a society in which people do not naturally recognize that marriage should be allowed only for heterosexual couples.