A Japanese court ruled that the country’s failure to recognize the right to same-sex marriage violates the constitution in a landmark ruling on Wednesday, local media reported.
The ruling made by the Sapporo District Court is the first in a series of damages lawsuits launched by same-sex couples across the country.
Japan is the only G7 country that does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions.
The court on the northern island of Hokkaido, ruling on a lawsuit filed by three same-sex couples, rejected their demand for 1 million yen (9,170 dollars) each for psychological damage caused by what they called the government’s negligence in not amending the law to allow them to marry, Kyodo News reported.
The couples on Hokkaido had tried to register as married couples with local authorities in January 2019, however, they were refused on the grounds that same-sex marriage has no legal status, Kyodo said.
“This is a truly landmark court ruling,” Kanako Otsuji, Japan’s first openly lesbian lawmaker, wrote on Twitter.
The ball is now in the parliament’s court, said Otsuji, a House of Representative lawmaker of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. “It’s time for the parliament to make a move.”
Opposition parties have submitted a bill to approve marriage equality, she added.
A growing number of local authorities in Japan have begun to approve same-sex partnerships and there has been virtually no strong opposition to same-sex marriage in the country.
Unlike in the West, in Japan there are very few openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) actors and actresses, and very few athletes who come out of the closet. Some say this contributes to a lack of awareness of gender and sexual diversity in the country.
Many also argue that little progress on marriage equality in Japan is attributed to article 24 of the country’s constitution.
It reads: “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.”
Taiwan is the only nation in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage.