Japanese Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Ban

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In Japan, the Osaka district court dismissed a case brought by three same-sex couples who argued Japan’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional and violated their right to equality. The couples sought 1 million yen (about $7,400) per person in damages. [1]

The couples in Osaka were three of 14 who filed lawsuits in 2019 against the governments of five major cities: Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, and Tokyo. The Osaka ruling is in opposition to a Mar. 2021 ruling from the Sapporo district court, which held that the constitution’s marriage ban did violate gay couple’s right to equality. [1] [2]

The Osaka district court stated that the 1947 constitution protects only male-female marriages because the constitution states that marriage is based on “the mutual consent of both sexes,” making a ban on same-sex marriage constitutional. The court did ask parliament for better same-sex relationships protections, including the possibility of legalizing gay marriage, stating: “it may be possible to create a new system…. From the perspective of individual dignity, it can be said that it is necessary to realise the benefits of same-sex couples being publicly recognised through official recognition…. Public debate on what kind of system is appropriate for this has not been thoroughly carried out.” [2] [3] [4]

Gay couples in Japan cannot legally inherit property, houses, or other assets from each other. They have no parental rights over the other’s children. And, frequently, they cannot rent apartments jointly or visit each other in the hospital, among other rights given to heterosexual married couples. [2]

About 200 municipalities (about 12% of the total) in Japan issue “partnership certificates,” including the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, which was the first to do so in 2015. The certificates grant same-sex couples some of the same rights as heterosexual married couples, including hospital visitation and the ability to rent property jointly. However, the certificates are not legally binding and the federal government controls many other rights. [1] [2] [5]

Though Japan is the only G7 (Group of Seven) country that does not recognize gay marriages or civil unions, the country is fairly liberal for Asia. Homosexuality has been legal in Japan since 1880, while it remains illegal in Singapore, for example. However, Taiwan legalized gay marriage in 2019, becoming the first Asian country to do so. And Thailand has recently taken steps to legalize either same-sex unions or marriage. [1]

Discussion Questions

1. Should gay marriage be legal? Why or why not?

2. Should same-sex couples be given some other form of legal protections and rights, such as civil unions? Why or why not?

3. Consider gay marriage from a perspective other than individual rights. For example, would legalizing (or not) gay marriage impact a country’s tourist economy? The country’s international business relations? Whether major sports competitions are held in the country? Think outside the box and explain your answer(s).


1. Kathleen Magramo, Jorge Engels, and Junko Ogura, “Japanese Court Upholds Ban on Same-Sex Marriage,” cnn.com, June 21, 2022

2. Associated Press, “Japan Court Says Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Is Constitutional,” npr.org, June 20, 2022

3. Elaine Lies, “Japan Court Rules Same-Sex Marriage Ban Is Not Unconstitutional,” reuters.com, June 20, 2022

4. Zubaidah Abdul Jalil, “Japan: Osaka Court Rules Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Constitutional,” bbc.com, June 20, 2022

5. Euan McKirdy, “Tokyo’s Shibuya District Takes Steps to Recognize Same-Sex Partnerships,” cnn.com, Apr. 1, 2015