Tokyo, April 21 (Jiji Press)–Tokyo District Court on Wednesday ruled against an attempt by a couple who married in the U.S. state of New York in 1997 to enter their different surnames in a family register in Japan.
The couple, filmmakers Kazuhiro Soda and Kiyoko Kashiwagi, filed the lawsuit after their notification of marriage with different family names was rejected by Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in 2018.
In the lawsuit, the government claimed that the marriage was not valid in Japan because their family names are different.
Presiding Judge Yoshitaka Ichihara ruled that their marriage itself is valid, noting that what the family register law and others assume include different-surname marriages involving Japanese citizens abroad.
Meanwhile, the court dismissed the couple’s claim for a total of 200,000 yen in consolation money, saying that a lack of a clause to certify such marriages in the law is not unconstitutional.
“The court at least found that people can get married without choosing a single family name,” Hiroyuki Takeshita, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told a press conference following the ruling.
Takeshita said the ruling will help accelerate discussions toward realizing a dual-surname system in the country.
“I believe we’ve won the suit in substance,” said Soda, who participated in the press conference online. “There’s a persistent stereotype that women should accept their male partners’ family names, but that mindset needs to change to promote equality.”