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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 October 21 - 27  > Tokyo High Court backs legal system forcing married couples to use same surnames
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2020 October 21 - 27 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Tokyo High Court backs legal system forcing married couples to use same surnames

October 24, 2020

The Tokyo High Court on October 23 issued a ruling rejecting a claim by three couples in Tokyo for damages from the state because the current legal system forcing married couples to use same surname is unconstitutional.

The high court ruling upheld a lower court decision and acknowledged that the Civil Code and the Family Register Act which oblige couples to choose either the husband’s or wife’s surname on their marriage certificate are constitutional. The plaintiffs plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In the three couples’ court battle, the point at issue was how the situation surrounding married persons’ surnames has changed since 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that the single surname obligation in the Civil Code is constitutional.

Explaining the reason for the ruling, the Tokyo High Court said that the legal obligation to use a single surname now causes less problems to those who changed their surnames as the government has worked to reduce the inconvenience to them by such means as having the certificate of residence include the wedded person’s maiden surname.

On the other hand, while admitting to the growing public call for the introduction of a selective separate surname system and to the fact that a considerable number of local assemblies adopted a written opinion in support of the separate surname system, the high court said that it is still necessary for the Diet and the general public to further discuss the matter.

At a press conference after the ruling, one of the plaintiffs said, “My wife and I want to relate to each other on equal footing. So, we chose to remain in a non-matrimonial relationship in order to keep our original surnames. The high court ruling has made me realize that the court has yet to understand how serious we are. We will never give up and will keep fighting.”

In similar lawsuits, the appeals courts in Hiroshima and Tokyo also turned down plaintiffs’ demands on September 16 and October 20, respectively.

Past related articles:
> Couple with different last names sues government for damage caused by imposition of same surname [June 19, 2018]
> JCP Vice Chair Hiroi criticizes top court ruling disapproving dual-surname system [December 17, 2015]
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