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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 August 7 - 13  > Public call for legalization of same-sex marriage is growing
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2019 August 7 - 13 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Public call for legalization of same-sex marriage is growing

August 8, 2019

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Recently, public awareness of a demand for the legalization of same-sex marriage has been growing. In February, 13 same-sex couples filed with four district courts across Japan damage lawsuits against the national government claiming that to not allow gay or lesbian couples to get legally married is unconstitutional. An opinion poll released in January by the Dentsu ad agency showed that 78% of the respondents supported same-sex marriage. Now is the time to add momentum to public movements for establishing a legal framework accepting family diversity.

In Japan, opposite sex married couples, including common-law couples, are eligible for various legal and economic rights, such as the right to succession, spousal tax breaks, and child-rearing and nursing care leaves. However, this is not the case for same-sex couples.

LGBTQ couples experience a wide range of disadvantages. For example, even during health care emergencies, same-sex couples are excluded from a patient’s room because doctors and other hospital staff rarely regard them as “real” family members. As a result, they cannot stay at the bedside or give consent to a surgical operation. Furthermore, many same-sex couples have difficulties in renting a room regardless of whether it is private or public.

The 13 couples’ court battle is aimed at changing the current situation. The plaintiffs in their petition point out that same-sex couples cannot officially register their marriage because there is no law for that. They claim that this situation tramples on the constitutional right to freedom to marry guaranteed under Article 24 and constitutes unjust discrimination based on sexual orientation which is banned under Article 14.

Article 24 of the Constitution states, “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes”. In prewar and wartime Japan, the former Civil Code stipulated that a marriage must be approved by the head of a household. What Article 24 of the current Constitution means is that two persons can get married with their free consent on an equal footing. Although the article uses the wording “both sexes”, it does not prohibit same-sex marriage, but ensures the freedom to marry for all. This is also the point which the plaintiffs seek to clarify in their legal battle.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations recently issued a written opinion stating that not allowing same-sex marriage is a serious human rights violation in light of the Constitution and demanded that the state revise relevant laws.

In the last ordinary Diet session earlier this year, the Japanese Communist Party and other opposition parties jointly submitted an “marriage equality” bill to the Diet. The party will work hard to enact the bill in collaboration with civil movements.

Past related articles:
> JCP Tamura on web TV debate calls for gender equality [July 10, 2019]
> Opposition parties submit marriage equality bill to Lower House [June 4, 2019]
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