Is Japan ready for same-sex marriage?


On 26 June, almost 42 years to the day after a riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York heralded what would become the gay rights movement, the US Supreme Court ruled that states across the nation could not ban same-sex marriage.

Opinion was divided (5–4 in favour), but sufficient to create a new human right and clear the way for hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of couples to embrace what Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said was a union that “embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family”.

The ruling made news around the world, including here in Japan, where activists in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities expressed the hope that it might encourage officials here to consider similar moves.

It also led to an unprecedented filing by almost 500 individuals in July with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations requesting the legalisation of same-sex marriages and claiming that Japan’s refusal to comply constitutes a violation of human rights.

The petition claims that the country’s failure to recognise same-sex marriage is also unconstitutional as it contradicts the principle of equality and individual dignity.

This lack of recognition, the petitioners claim, “exposes couples to a wide variety of disadvantages in life, thus robbing them of the right to pursue happiness as stipulated in the constitution”.

Some of the complaints cited in this regard include discrimination by landlords who refuse to let to same-sex couples, the denial of visitation rights in hospitals, and the refusal by some social and athletic clubs to accept partners in “family benefits schemes”. There is also the vexed question of inheritance rights.

Certain local authorities have begun looking at these issues. While none to date have broached the subject of marriage per se, some are considering measures that are “gay friendly”.

In March, for example, Shibuya Ward became the first local government in Japan to adopt an ordinance establishing same-sex partnership certificates. In July, Setagaya Ward announced that it, too, would start issuing certificates in the autumn.

These are steps in the right direction, but the certificates are not legally binding, so just how effective can they actually be? Other local authorities such as Yokohama City and Takarazuka City, in Hyogo Prefecture, have also spoken of measures to protect the rights of same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, same-sex marriage is a reality in the UK—except Northern Ireland, where the executive has stated that it does not intend to legislate for the practice.

Being a devolved issue, differences exist in legislation and timing, but politicians have been quick to put in place measures permitting same-sex marriage.

The Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 and The Marriage (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 stated there was a legal impediment to marriage if the partners were of the same sex. Yet, just a decade after the latter, Queen Elizabeth gave royal assent to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales. One year later, in 2014, Scotland legalised the practice.

There will be many in Japan who are watching developments carefully and hoping that changes in legislation here can be made with similar speed. So far, the government opposition parties have largely welcomed the moves towards easing restrictions while, not surprisingly, the Liberal Democratic Party has voted against any such freedoms.

Custom Media publishes BCCJ ACUMEN for the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Good luck trying to get a landlord to rent to anyone they don't want to.

But the rest of it - inheritance, being considered next-of-kin, that should be legalised as a matter of course. I hope it happens without the nonsense we've seen in the US.

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Maria great points :-)

Civil Rights issue, peoples personal opinions on the matter, while they are free to have them and express them shouldn't stop fair and and equal treatment of people, especially as it applies to legal, medical decisions, healthcare and all the other ways other legal consenting adult commited relationships are treated by the government and state.

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"So far, the government opposition parties have largely welcomed the moves towards easing restrictions while, not surprisingly, the Liberal Democratic Party has voted against any such freedoms" - article

In the end, prohibition helps no one and doesn't prevent people from loving one another. So it's cheaper to get over it. People have been loving people of the same sex for a very long time. Sorry, it just happens, it's like they were born that way.

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Japan is very much ready for same sex marriage. Japan does not have a tradition of religious prejudice against GLBT people, thanks to the lack of influence by any Abrahamic religion. There are prejudices, of course. But these are not violent prejudices for the most part. Mishima was bisexual and it is very likely his homosexual side was mostly show, which says a lot about acceptance in Japan. I think the worst we can expect is people thinking it is weird or funny. Probably even the ultra-righists won't object, though I could be very wrong.

If Eire could legalize same sex marriage so can Japan.

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I think Japan in general is much more tolerant of same sex couples, but correct me if I'm wrong, I think the constitution (largely drafted by the US of A) specifically states that matrimony is limited to a man and woman.

So on a social level, I think there won't be any vocal opposition or activism (like Westboro). But on a legal level, I think its unconstitutional.

I studied under a prof who was responsible for the clause in the Canadian constitution (enacted 1982) that allowed same-sex marriages to be legally recognized (or at least that's what he claimed).

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But on a legal level, I think its unconstitutional.

So they can change the constitution. it's obviously not impossible, since they're planning to do it anyway for something that's more damaging than bonding.

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While same-sex couples are depicted a LOT in Japanese literature and manga/anime (e.g., the famous Class S stories from the first half of the 20th Century or the openly yuri relationships we see in manga/anime especially since the 1990's), the acceptance of such relationships in real life is not as great as some people think. It'll still be a while before such relationships are widely accepted by the general populace in Japan.

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Is Japan ready for same-sex marriage?

I don't think so. This is a country that still doesn't have joint child custody or property rights for heterosexual parents. Divorce laws between heterosexual parents is still in the dark ages. Legalization of gay marriage takes a progressive attitude which I feel is non existent here.

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Given Japan's dire demographic situation, anything that promotes homosexuality is not a good idea, and any sensible Japanese would not want gay marriage.

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Why not?

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The real problem is the perception people have of a couple in a same sex marriage. Most people see the union as one is the Wife and the other the husband or the Dominate person. This is hard for a lot of people to take in. So they opposite it .The percentage is low in the male and male relationship. It is a higher in a Female and Female relationship but it is no way a given. Sparta and the Spartans were encourage to form same sex relationship. The powers to be found that there was less retreating on the battle field because partner have seen they partner or their lovers slain in their present and the need the retaliate their loss of their partner overwhelms the Warrior and attacks the slayers.

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the perception people have of a couple in a same sex marriage.

The perception is an outdated one.

It'll still be a while before such relationships are widely accepted by the general populace in Japan.

That's what they said in other countries who have since legislated same sex marriage. It'll be a while, ie some years, but the wheels are turning the right way - forward.

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Maria What are you no about. Of corse it is outdated, and most people still have that attitude That the problem.

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Same sex marriage is indeed unconstitutional, ruled out by Article 4 that defines legal marriage as being exclusively between a male and a female partner. Of course, the constitution can be altered but as things now stand it is impossible to legalize same sex marriage.

As to whether the country is ready to accept such unions as valid, I very much doubt it. And I consume oodles of yaoi and yuri manga myself but I hold no illusions as to what the Zeitgeist is when it comes to acceptance of real, flesh and blood gay individuals. For one, marriage as a whole is still viewed as a traditional structure for the rearing of children and needless to say that those to see things on such terms are not exactly tolerant of the many ways gay people have of conceiving. And considering the problem Japan is facing with its low birthrate I hardly think that there will be a great push to legalize a kind of marriage that according to most leads to no reproduction.

With that said, it is entirely possible to legalizing it will show people the validity of same sex unions. Waiting until people come around will take too long while legalizing can speed up the process considerably. It's a matter of basic rights, I say legalize it. It may take years until it becomes accepted even once it is legalized but it may take decades for that to happen if it is not legalized.

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Don't get the wrong idea, I'm not against it - I don't give a rats butt about who gets married, not my business. But if you haven't noticed, changing the constitution is a lot easier said than done here in Japan.

"since they're planning to do it anyway for something that's more damaging"

I'm guessing you're referring to changing the Article 9. See that's where a lot of you are being duped by the media. The media pronounces that "he's going to change it" to vilify Abe, but its so not going to happen (at least not until some country does something crazy to create hype in the majority of Japanese people) given the numerous processes and difficulties. Having said that, Article 4 isn't going to change any time soon neither.

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the acceptance of such relationships in real life is not as great as some people think

simply because it lacks the imprimatur of authority, essential in a Confucianist society

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I think everyone in Japan, straight or gay, should support gay marriage and press for its acceptance. I think the debate is actually more necessary in Japan than in the West because the Japanese authorities need to scrap the family register system and recognize the myriad of relationships people now enter into. I wouldn't be surprised if there are more gay couples in Japan living together than unmarried parents with more than one child. Most babies in France today are born to unmarried parents and the birthrate there is much higher than Japan's. Some of the issues that would be brought up in discussing whether to legally recognize gay marriage, such as dependency between spouses, have needed to be discussed for a long time for marriages between men and women. The Japanese hoken system (the one people talk about as "pensions") actually pays out early as a widow's pension when children are involved, but only if the father dies. The expression used is "to be paid to the mother". Fathers will get nothing. In the UK, close to one wife in three outearns her husband. Such trend will only become more common here as well. It should go without saying that all the problems with the Hague Convention and custody and visitation rights for divorced or estranged parents also come down to the same issue of the authorities taking a very narrow view of the family and failing to support or protect anyone whose situation does not conform to that norm.

LGBT folks are pretty good at organizing and standing up for themselves, so let's join them and make this a better society.

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Yes, Japan seems more than ready, it's just the old government that is stuck up in the past

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