Two courts in Japan on Monday (15 April) held initial hearings in landmark legal action against the government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriages.
Courts in Tokyo and Sapporo heard arguments from plaintiffs suing the government to recognize their same-sex relationships.
Government attorneys then confirmed they would defend its position, according to plaintiff Ai Nakajima.
Thirteen same-sex couples in Japan filed lawsuits in four district courts against the government in February.
The five female and eight male couples challenged local administrations that denied them marriage certificates. They are seeking damages of US$9,000.
The couples argue the government’s stance on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Nakajima said some 200 supporters arrived at Tokyo court on Monday morning. That was double the courtroom’s capacity.
She told Gay Star News she had a ‘real feeling that things are moving forward’.
But, she said, it was hard to see the government’s stance ‘We also have the fear of possibly losing the case’ she admitted.
Landmark fight for rights
Homosexuality is legal in largely-conservative Japan. But the government does not recognize same-sex marriage and there is no nationwide anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTI Japanese.
But, some local administrations offer limited rights to same-sex couples through ‘partnership certificates’.
Rights group Marriage For All Japan launched the joint action.
‘Marriage is a fundamental right under the constitution, and this should be applied to same-sex couples’ the groups lawyer, Takeharu Kato, previously told Gay Star News.
Article 24 of Japan’s constitution says ‘marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.’
Significantly, Japan is the only country in the G7 not to recognize same-sex unions.
What’s more, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have campaigned for traditional heteronormative families. Its lawmakers are also notorious for anti-LGBTI comments.
’This violation of the human right of freedom to marry has continued for a long time’ Kato told Gay Star News. ‘Its time that the rights of LGBTI people are recognized’.
Kato said he expects the court cases to last at least five years.