World News

Gay couples sue Japan over right to get married – First lawsuits are filed

Tokyo — Thirteen gay couples on Thursday filed Japan’s first lawsuits seeking to force the government to recognize same-sex marriage, arguing that their constitutional right to equality had been violated. Should the courts agree, it would mean same-sex unions will have to be permitted in future.


Thirteen same-sex couples across Japan were taking legal action on Thursday against the government, demanding the right to get married. They all filed their case on Valentine’s Day, in different Japanese cities.

They are suing for symbolic damages, arguing that being barred from marriage violates their constitutional rights.

Holding banners saying “Marriage for All Japan,” six couples walked into Tokyo District Court to file their cases, with similar cases filed by three couples in Osaka, one in Nagoya and three in Sapporo.

One plaintiff, Kenji Aiba, standing next to his partner, Ken Kozumi, told reporters that he would “fight this war together with sexual minorities all around Japan.”

Mr. Aiba and Mr. Kozumi have held on to a marriage certificate they signed at their wedding party in 2013, anticipating that Japan would emulate other advanced nations and legalize same-sex unions.

Ai Nakajima, 40, from Japan, and 31-year old German Tina Baumann are among them.

The two have been together since 2011 when they met in Berlin. After living a few years in Germany, they moved to Japan. But living as a same-sex couple was very different in the two countries.

“Japanese society is by nature very conservative,” Ms Nakajima told the BBC.

tokyo express

Ms Nakajima and Ms Baumann (seen in picture above) got married in Germany, and soon afterwards applied for that marriage to be recognised in Yokohama where they currently live.

As they had expected, the German marriage was not recognised. “In Germany it’s a lot easier to come out and just live the way you choose to as an individual,” Ms Baumann says.

“In Japan however, gender roles are a lot more traditional and a woman is expected to marry and have children. In many cases, it’s even still expected that a woman will stop working once she becomes a mother.”



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