Japan court: The same-sex marriage ban is not unconstitutional

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A Japanese court ruled on Monday that a ban on same-sex marriage was not unconstitutional, dealing a setback to LGBTQ rights activists in the only Group of Seven nation that does not allow people of the same gender to marry.

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The ruling dashes activists' hopes of raising pressure on the central government to address the issue after a court in the city of Sapporo in March 2021 decided in favor of a claim that not allowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

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Three same-sex couples - two male, one female - had filed the case in a district court in Osaka, only the second to be heard on the issue in Japan.

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In addition to rejecting their claim that being unable to marry was unconstitutional, the court threw out their demand for 1 million yen ($7,400) in damages for each couple.

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"I actually wonder if the legal system in this country is really working," said plaintiff Machi Sakata, who married her U.S.-citizen partner in the United States. The two are expecting a baby in August.

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"I think there's the possibility this ruling may really corner us," Sakata said.

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Japan's constitution defines marriage as based on "the mutual consent of both sexes." But the introduction of partnership rights for same-sex couples in Tokyo last week, along with rising support in opinion polls, had raised the hopes of activists and lawyers for the Osaka case.

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The Osaka court said marriage was defined as being only between opposite genders, and not enough debate on same-sex marriage had taken place in Japanese society.

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"We emphasised in this case that we wanted same-sex couples to have access to the same things as regular couples," said lawyer Akiyoshi Miwa, adding that they would appeal.