Japan’s District Courts Divided over Same-Sex Marriage Ban; Lawsuits Expected to be Taken to High Courts

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People hold up a banner following the ruling on same-sex marriage at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo on Thursday.

District courts have been divided on whether the lack of a legal framework for same-sex marriage is constitutional or unconstitutional, with five courts nationwide issuing rulings over same-sex marriage in six cases since 2019.

All district court decisions dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims for compensation. However, all the courts shared the same concern that same-sex couples are being denied the legal benefits to which heterosexual couples are entitled.

The lawsuits are expected to be taken to the respective higher courts to decide on the merits of the district court verdicts, as was the case with Thursday’s Sapporo High Court ruling in response to the Sapporo District Court’s ruling in March 2021.

“The Sapporo High Court ruling is a landmark decision that takes seriously the disadvantages faced by same-sex couples. I hope that other high courts will also issue rulings that take into account the needs of sexual minorities,” said Waseda University Prof. Masayuki Tanamura, who specializes in family law.

Sophia University Prof. Kaori Habu, who also specializes in family law, said that “the stable life of same-sex couples should of course be guaranteed, and provisions should be made to protect their legal interests.”

Meanwhile, she added that “whether or not to recognize same-sex marriage as a marriage institution is deeply related to parent-child relationships and the state of society, and requires careful discussion.”