Osaka Court: Non-recognition of same-sex marriage constitutional

A court in western Japan has rejected a lawsuit claiming damages by plaintiffs who argued it is unconstitutional that same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in the country.

Three same-sex couples filed the lawsuit at the Osaka District Court, demanding one million yen per plaintiff in compensation.

They argued that not being legally allowed to register their partnerships as marriages under the current family register law and the civil code violates the Constitution.

In handing down the ruling on Monday, presiding judge Doi Fumi said Article 24 of the Constitution stipulates that marriage shall be based on the mutual consent of parties of both sexes and does not encompass same-sex marriage.

In reference to Article 14 of the Constitution, which stipulates that all people are equal under the law, Doi described marriage between heterosexual partners as a means of allowing society to protect couples that reproduce and raise children.

She said how society is to protect same-sex couples wishing to marry is a matter of debate on which a conclusion has yet to be reached.

The judge ruled in favor of the state and dismissed the plaintiffs' claims.

At the same time, she said one should not interpret the Constitution as prohibiting same-sex marriage or similar frameworks.

She added that the interpretation should be made in a democratic fashion, taking into account Japan's traditions, public sentiment and issues faced by married couples and families.

She suggested that the state may violate the Constitution should it fail to keep up with changing values and continue to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Monday's ruling runs counter to a 2021 decision by the Sapporo District Court that acknowledged the government's non-recognition of same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.

Similar lawsuits have been filed separately in three other legal jurisdictions in Japan.

Lawyer Miwa Akiyoshi, representing the plaintiffs, criticized the latest ruling, saying the court did not make a salient argument as to why same-sex couples cannot marry.

He expressed a readiness to appeal the ruling, saying he will join with the plaintiffs and their supporters to ensure that same-sex couples can wed.