Sapporo same-sex marriage ruling

On 17th March 2021, a Japanese court ruled for the first time that it’s unconstitutional for Japan to deprive same-sex couples of legal marriage rights – a decision that’s hailed widely as a monumental ruling. 

Japan’s same-sex marriage ban deemed unconstitutional

Sapporo same-sex marriage - supporters holding banners and rainbow flags
Image adapted from: ANNnewsCH

The Sapporo District Court recently ruled that Japan’s barring of same-sex marriage violates Article 14 of the Constitution of Japan, which stipulates equality for all before the law, condemning the discriminatory law. This marks a step forward for LGBTQ rights in Japan and many see it as a positive sign for change to come. 

Sapporo same-sex marriage - partnership certificate
Partnership Certificate
Image credit: Setagaya City

Currently, same-sex marriage is not legalised in Japan. Instead, “partnership certificates” (パートナーシップ証明書; paatonaashippu shōmeisho) are issued in select prefectures and municipalities to same-sex couples. 

Though the documents allow for some benefits, such as next-of-kin consent for medical treatment, the legal rights accorded are limited and by no means a replacement for a legal union. While the ruling by Sapporo District Court did not constitute the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Japan, it is no doubt a necessary first step to a more inclusive society. 

Recent poll shows rising support for same-sex marriage

Sapporo same-sex marriage - asahi shimbun poll
Poll done by Asahi Shimbun
Image adapted from: Asahi Shimbun 

According to a recent nationwide poll conducted by Asahi Shimbun, it was revealed that 65% of the voters are in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, while 22% remain opposed. When compared to a similar poll done in 2015, where only 41% showed their allyship and 37% voiced their opposition, it is a notable shift in numbers. 

The article also indicates that a majority of Japanese people, particularly the younger ones, voted in favour of marriage equality, suggesting a growing acceptance of and a steady increase in support for LGBTQ rights in Japan.  

Sapporo court’s same-sex marriage ruling 

Although there’s still much work that needs to be done to ensure equal rights for the LGBTQ community, here’s hoping that the ruling by the Sapporo District Court will be a catalyst for change for same-sex marriage rights in Japan. 

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Cover image adapted from: PR Times

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