Sapporo district court: Ban on gay marriage unconstitutional

Historic ruling in favour of six same-sex couples. Principle of equality violated. Damages claim from government rejected. Taiwan is the only country in East Asia that allows same-sex marriages. The marginalization of the Japanese gay community. A recent Vatican intervention.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The government's failure to recognize same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, according to the Sapporo District Court (Hokkaido prefecture). The ruling was handed down today in a lawsuit filed against the authorities by six gay couples.

According to the judges, the ban violates the constitutional principle of equality; however, they rejected the claim for damages submitted by the applicants.

In addition to the six couples in question, on Valentine's Day in 2019, seven others applied to the courts of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya to access marital rights enjoyed in the country by recognized heterosexual couples.

Taiwan alone among East Asian nations allows same-sex marriage. Homosexual relations in Japan are allowed, but without legal protections for gay couples. At least 74 Japanese municipalities have approved registries for gay unions. About 1,500 homosexual couples have signed the relevant certificates, which however do not have full legal value.

Several observers point out that the social attitudes prevalent in the country lead to the marginalization of the gay community. The absence of pension and social security coverage is also a brake on the influx of foreign professionals who are in homosexual relationships into Japan.

Just this week the Vatican issued a statement on the issue of same-sex relationships. In a note of March 15, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recalled that the Church is against any "unjust discrimination" of homosexual people, specifying however that it "does not have the power" to bless gay unions.