In what appears to be a pioneering initiative, 13 LGBT couples in Japan plan to sue the government for on Valentine’s Day protesting for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the country.
While there are technically no specific laws that prohibit same-sex marriage in Japan and some municipalities across the country even issue “partnership certificates,” the couples argue that these formalities do not give the same provisions and protection under the law that a legal marriage covers.
Although the LGBT couples find support among their friends and families, they cannot say the same about the law. Under Japanese law, they are not recognized as legally married which can cause issues when it comes to filing taxes, applying for government housing loans, listing beneficiaries in their health and life insurance programs.
The LGBT couples who pay the same taxes to the government cannot enjoy equal privileges as legally married couples do. This can greatly affect the LGBT couples’ access to Japan’s social security benefits.
Ai Nakajima, who works in a cryptocurrency firm, and her partner Kristina Baumann, a game developer, were legally married in Germany last year and now live in Yokohama. They filed marriage registration documents in their local municipality but were rejected. In Japan, their marriage is unrecognized.
The case of Elin McCready, an American linguistics professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, and her wife is also another example of a legal conundrum. McCready and her wife have been married and lived in Japan for a long time, but McCready recently came out as transgender and filed for a legal gender change from male to female.
McCready updated her passport and foreign residency documents to match her new name and gender. When she filed the documents to the local municipality, the Japanese government refused to recognize the application since both persons now listed themselves as the “wife” in the document.
Professor Shuhei Ninomiya of Ritumeikan University argued that the Japanese Constitution only defines marriage as “a consensual decision by both parties.”
In addition, Japan’s aversion to same-sex marriage may be shaped by the conservative cultural perspective that marriage entails having and raising one’s own children.