Japan: Judicial ruling marks groundbreaking step towards equality

In response to today’s district court ruling in Japan that the government’s failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional — the country’s first-ever judicial ruling on marriage equality — Suki Chung, Regional Campaigner at Amnesty International said: 

“The court’s decision that the Japanese government is acting in a discriminatory and unconstitutional manner by not allowing same-sex couples to marry is a groundbreaking step for same-sex couples in their pursuit of equal rights. The ruling can set an important precedent for similar cases filed by other same-sex couples in the country.”

“Japan has been lagging behind in fulfilling its obligations to respect and protect the  human rights of LGBTI people. A bill on promoting ‘understanding’ of LGBTI people has dragged on for years but is yet to become law. The government must stop delaying and undertake a thorough review of all related laws, policies and practices to end the discrimination same-sex couples face in all walks of life.”


On 17 March, the Sapporo District Court ruled on a lawsuit brought by three same-sex couples in Hokkaido demanding 1 million yen each (US$9,160 approximately) for psychological damage caused by the government’s negligence in not amending the constitution to allow them to marry. The plaintiffs were among 13 couples who filed similar lawsuits on Valentine’s Day in 2019. Another three same-sex couples also filed a suit in September 2019.

The court’s ruling said the Japanese government violated Article 14 of the Japanese constitution that ensures the right to equality. However, the court said the plaintiffs were not entitled to damages.

Japan has not yet introduced national legislation to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Amnesty International continues to call on the Japanese government to prioritize LGBTI rights and introduce national legislation that is comprehensive, and specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identities and intersex status. The organization is running a global petition in support of LGBTI rights in Japan: https://haiku.amnesty.org/