A district court in Osaka has ruled that Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage does not violate the constitution.
The ruling shocked gay couples, and rights activists after another district court in Sapporo ruled in 2021 that the failure to recognize same-sex marriage was “unconstitutional”.
The constitution of Japan defines marriage as one between “both sexes”.
It is the only country in the G7 group of developed countries that do not allow people of the same sex to marry.
Opinion polls show that the majority of the general public is in favour of allowing same-sex marriage in Japan.
Several regions – including Tokyo – have begun issuing partnership certificates to help same-sex couples rent a property and gain hospital visitation rights.
The Osaka case was filed by three same-sex couples, two of whom were men and one woman. This is the second case of its kind in the country, where the stereotypical attitude towards homosexuality continues.
In addition to rejecting their claim that being unable to marry was unconstitutional, the court also rejected demands for damages of 1 million yen ($7,414; £6,058) for each couple who argued that they needed to marry. “Unjustified discrimination” was faced by not allowing it.
But the court also said there had not been enough public debate about same-sex marriage and that “it may be possible to create a new system” recognizing the interests of same-sex couples.
“From the perspective of individual dignity, it can be said that it is necessary to realise the benefits of same-sex couples being publicly recognised through official recognition,” the court said in its ruling.
“Public debate on what kind of system is appropriate for this has not been thoroughly carried out.”
The court’s decision is seen as a blow to gay rights activists and couples who were hoping to pressure the Japanese government to address same-sex unions.