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Editorial: Legislating same-sex marriage a step toward a diverse society in Japan

  • July 22, 2022
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

How can Japan achieve a diverse society? Protecting the rights of same-sex couples is an important step in that process.


Stipulations under Japan’s Civil Code and Family Register Act are premised on marriage between a man and a woman, so even if a same-sex couple submits a notification of marriage in Japan, it will not be accepted. The couple is not legally protected as a family and receives discriminatory treatment.


In the recent House of Councillors election, the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) were among those calling for legislation on same-sex marriage. Komeito, a member of the ruling coalition, vowed to “deepen national debate and work on the necessary legislation.”


In contrast, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) did not touch on the issue at all in its election pledges.


At a meeting of the Shinto Political Alliance Diet Members’ Association, to which many LDP lawmakers belong, a booklet stating that “homosexuality is an acquired psychiatric disorder, or addiction” was distributed. But there are no scientific grounds for this.


The government has regarded same-sex marriage as “an issue relating to the foundational concept of the family, which requires extremely careful consideration.” On a radio program after the upper house election, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida went no further than saying, “There are various opinions, and it is an issue over which we have to deepen discussion.”


As the forms of families diversify, people’s perceptions regarding same-sex marriage are also changing. In a survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun and other parties, 46% of respondents said that same-sex marriage “should be allowed” — far more than the 16% who answered that “there is no need to allow it.” The younger the respondents, the more they were in favor of allowing same-sex marriage.


Partnership systems in which local governments certify the relationships of same-sex couples have spread across Japan, having been introduced by over 200 local bodies. The system is applied when arranging for the hospitalization of a partner, as well as for life insurance policies and other such procedures.


However, this alone is not a fundamental solution. A person cannot become the legal heir of a same-sex partner, and the couple cannot have joint custody of children. They are also disadvantaged when it comes to taxation and social security.


There has been a succession of judicial rulings that Article 24 of the Constitution of Japan, which states, “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes,” does not deny same-sex marriage. There was also a ruling that not allowing it violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which stipulates equality under the law.


Overseas, 31 countries and regions, including those in North America and Europe, allow same-sex marriage.


Politicians have a responsibility to build a society in which the human rights of various people are respected. Same-sex marriage legislation should be implemented as soon as possible.

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