Japan Court Lets Same-Sex Couple Share Family Name; Men Raising Child Have Ties Equivalent to Marriage

The Nagoya Family Court has allowed a man living with a same-sex partner to change his family name to that of his partner, ruling that the two are in a relationship similar to marriage, the attorney representing the petitioner said on Thursday.

It is rare in Japan for someone in a same-sex relationship to be allowed to change their family name to match that of their partner.

According to the attorney, a man in his 30s in Aichi Prefecture petitioned the family court to allow the change in November 2023. He and his same-sex partner have been living together since 2018 and have been raising a foster child together since 2023. However, they have experienced some problems when taking the foster child to medical facilities, such as being forced to explain their relationship because the parents and the child have different surnames.

In its March 14 decision, the family court noted that “it is socially acceptable to provide same-sex couples with the same level of legal protection as opposite-sex couples to a certain extent.”

After determining that their living conditions were “practically the same as those of an opposite-sex couple raising a child,” the court stated that their different family names caused them social difficulties, and that there were “unavoidable grounds” to permit the change under the Family Register Law.

Through his attorney, the man said: “I was more than happy that the judiciary dealt with the issue sincerely, seeing us as no different from a married couple of the opposite sex. The content of the case will lead to a feeling of ‘no need to live in hiding’ for those who are in the same situation as minorities.”