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Couple seeks recognition of same sex marriage to 'become family'

Haru Ono, center, answers questions from reporters before she and other same-sex partners filed damages suits against the government seeking a legal recognition of their statuses in central Tokyo on Feb. 14, 2019. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Haru Ono says she wants her relationship with her same-sex partner Asami Nishikawa to be treated with equality.

"We've been together as a family for so long, so we want the law to recognize us as one," she said.

The couple, who have two children from their previous marriages with men, are part of six same-sex pairs who filed damages suits against the government with the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 14. They and other people joining the joint legal action want one thing: court recognition that it is unconstitutional for the government not to officially accept same-sex marriages.

Ono, a company employee, and Nishikawa, who runs her own business, are the only partners raising children among the nine couples who filed district court suits in Tokyo and Osaka on Feb. 14. During their 14 years of living together, the women have faced a number of difficulties, such as the denial of joint custody for their children, the challenge of talking about their relationship to people around them, and describing their relationships in various documents.

Ono became deeply aware of the inequality faced by same-sex partners when she was diagnosed with cancer several years ago. She had a hard time continuing to work, but she could not become Nishikawa's dependent legally. She was also nagged by other issues such as whether Nishikawa could sign agreement papers for Ono's operation while she was unconscious.

As the leader of a group of sexual minorities raising children, Ono knows many people who choose not to raise their voices out of consideration for their kids and thus have low profiles. She herself has not shown her face in media coverage.

As the couple's children, now in high school and college, are supporting their legal action, Ono decided to come out in front of the cameras this time. "I want people to realize that families can have various forms and they can still raise children," says Ono.

(Japanese original by Miyuki Fujisawa, Medical Welfare News Department)

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