Japan's top court rules same-sex couples qualify for crime victim benefits

Japan's top court has ruled for the first time that a same-sex partner of a crime victim qualifies for government benefits paid to bereaved family members of such victims.

The Supreme Court handed down the ruling on Tuesday, arguing that a same-sex partner of a crime victim is considered a partner in common-law marriage.

Currently, both married and common-law marriage couples are eligible to receive equal benefits in pensions and many other social security services.

The plaintiff Uchiyama Yasuhide lived with his partner, who was murdered in 2014. Uchiyama applied for a government benefit designed for bereaved family members of crime victims.

After the application was rejected, he filed a suit against the Aichi prefectural government.

Lower courts dismissed his claim, maintaining that same-sex couples are not considered in common-law marriage.

Supreme Court Justice Hayashi Michiharu said in the ruling that the level of psychological and financial damage caused by the death of crime victims on their partners are the same regardless of whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex couples.

The Supreme Court has ordered the Nagoya High Court to reexamine the case to determine whether Uchiyama and his partner were in common-law marriage.