Japanese court ruling on same-sex marriage could be setback for rights

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The Japanese constitution stipulates that “marriage can only take place with the mutual consent of both sexes”.

Tokyo:

A Japanese court ruled on Monday that the country’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage was constitutional, in a setback for activists after a landmark verdict last year found otherwise.

The Osaka District Court in western Japan has dismissed arguments made by three same-sex couples in a series of lawsuits brought by activists demanding marriage equality.

“From the perspective of individual dignity, it can be said that it is necessary to realize the benefits of public recognition of same-sex couples through official recognition,” the court said.

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But the current non-recognition of these unions is “not considered a violation…of the Constitution”, the judgment added, saying that “public debate on the type of system appropriate has not been conducted to bottom”.

The verdict comes after a district court in northern Sapporo last year found otherwise, ruling that the government’s refusal to allow same-sex marriage violated the constitution’s provision guaranteeing equality before the law.

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The move was welcomed by campaigners as a major victory that would pressure lawmakers to accept same-sex unions.

The Japanese constitution stipulates that “marriage can only take place with the mutual consent of both sexes”.

But in recent years, local authorities across the country have taken steps to recognize same-sex partnerships, although this recognition does not confer the same rights as marriage under the law.

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The Tokyo prefecture announced last month that it would start recognizing same-sex partnerships from November, revising the current rules.

More than a dozen couples filed lawsuits seeking marriage equality in 2020 in district courts across Japan. They said the coordinated action was aimed at putting pressure on the only G7 government that does not recognize gay trade unions.

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