Residence Status for Japan-U.S. Gay Marriage Rejected Again

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Tokyo High Court

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Tokyo High Court on Thursday rejected a request by a U.S. citizen in a same-sex marriage seeking long-term residence status in Japan to continue living with his Japanese partner.

Upholding a lower court ruling, Presiding Judge Keiichiro Umemoto at the high court rejected the request by Andrew High to cancel a government decision not to grant long-term residence status to him.

High had claimed that the decision was unconstitutional and demanded damages from the government.

The plaintiff married his partner, Kohei, in the United States in 2015 and stayed in Japan as a student or with other status. He applied for long-term residence status in 2018, but the request was rejected.

The judge found no illegality in the government’s decision.

Meanwhile, the judge noted that Japan grants long-term residence status for specified activities to foreigners in same-sex marriages with foreign partners.

It is “difficult to find a rational reason” for not giving this status to foreign partners of Japanese nationals in same-sex marriages, he said, showing a view in line with the lower court ruling in September 2022.

The judge also discussed the current situation in which residence status as the spouse of a Japanese national is granted to foreigners in marriages between a man and a woman, while no such status is given to people in same-sex marriages.

Whether the different treatment runs counter to the principle of equality under law “can be a problem,” he said.

In March this year, High obtained residence status for specified activities following the lower court ruling, but he is seeking long-term residency due to restrictions on employment and other conditions with the current status.