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Asia Minute: Japanese court delivers a mixed decision on same-sex marriages

Japan LGBTQ
Shizuo Kambayashi/AP
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AP
People march with rainbow-colored and heart-shaped posters and a banner during the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community in Tokyo's Shibuya district, May 7, 2017. Japan's capital has announced Tuesday, May 10, 2022, it will start recognizing same-sex partnerships to ease the burdens faced by residents in their daily lives, but the unions will not be considered legal marriages.

Same-sex marriage remains a controversial topic in Japan — where the constitution refers to “the mutual consent of both sexes.”

Japan is the only one of the Group of Seven nations that does not recognize same-sex marriages.

On Wednesday, a Tokyo District court upheld a ban on those marriages, but also said that the lack of a legal system to protect same-sex families is a violation of their human rights.

Supporters of change see this as progress. It’s the third recent case dealing with the issue.

Last year, the Sapporo District Court said the government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. About six months ago, the Osaka District Court said it was constitutional.

The Tokyo case is somewhere between the two — and the politics of the question remain unclear.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has not announced any plans to deal with the issue, though several senior members of his ruling party have expressed support for same-sex marriage.

Opinions tend to split along generational lines.

A survey done by the Mainichi Newspaper and Saitama University found about 25% of people who are 70-years and older say same-sex marriage should be legally recognized.

For those from 18-years to 29-years, support for legal recognition shoots up to more than 70%.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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