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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 March 4 - 10  > High court: same-sex couples can receive same legal protections as heterosexual couples
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2020 March 4 - 10 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

High court: same-sex couples can receive same legal protections as heterosexual couples

March 5, 2020

The Tokyo High Court on March 4 upheld a lower court decision and ruled that same-sex de-facto couples deserve receiving legal protections similar to those enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

This is the first high court ruling acknowledging the legal equivalence of virtually married couples and virtually-married same-sex couples, according to the plaintiff’s lawyers.

In the court battle, a woman in her 30s urged her ex-partner to pay damages, by claiming that their relationship ended because of the partner’s unfaithfulness. They lived together in Japan for seven years after getting married in the United States.

The high court ruling judged that they were in a state of common-law marriage based on the facts that they lived under the same roof for seven years and that they prepared to buy an apartment in order to raise children.

The ruling pointed out that more and more countries in the world have legalized same-sex marriage or established a civil partnership system and that in Japan, some municipalities have introduced a same-sex partnership system. The high court ruled that like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples can benefit from legal protection deriving from de facto marriage.

Regarding the amount of compensation, the high court supported the lower court’s assessment.

After the ruling, the plaintiff’s lawyers said that the court decision will have a huge impact as it lays out criteria such as the length of cohabitation which will be used in similar court cases in the future.

Commenting on the ruling, Lawyer Nakagawa Shigenori, who is a member of a nationwide network of lawyers supporting same-sex marriage lawsuits, said that the high court decision is epoch-making and reflects the constitutional principle that everyone should be respected as an individual. Nakagawa stressed that the court judgement is encouraging news for all persons concerned.

Past related article:
> Rally held to call for legislation allowing same-sex marriage [November 20, 2019]
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