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Couples seek same-sex marriage recognition in Tokyo District Court hearing

A court sign is seen at the location of the Tokyo District Court in the capital's Chiyoda Ward in this file photo taken on Nov. 29, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Two plaintiffs, among six same-sex couples who have filed damages lawsuits with the Tokyo District Court against the government over Japan's same-sex marriage ban, gave statements during first oral argument here on April 15.

The plaintiffs argue that current law barring same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Each of them is seeking 1 million yen in damages for psychological suffering.

Seven other couples also filed coordinated suits on Feb. 14 with district courts in Osaka in western Japan, Sapporo in the north, and Nagoya in central Japan, but the Tokyo case is the first to reach the hearings phase.

The government indicated it will fight the suits, but did not reveal any further details on its argument in the first hearing.

"In my 30s, I was finally able to think that being gay wasn't embarrassing," recalled plaintiff Ikuo Sato, 60, at the hearing. He added, "In a society that recognizes same-sex marriage as a system, people of the next generation will not have to deny themselves, like the way I felt when I was younger."

Fellow complainant Haru Ono, in her 40s, explained that she and her partner are currently raising three children, born while the women were still with their now ex-husbands, but do not have joint legal custody. "I don't understand why (same-sex couples) are not recognized as a family under the law and only husbands and wives are legally recognized as such," she stated.

The plaintiffs point out that they face a number of disadvantages in a society that does not recognize same-sex spousal relationships, including treatment under tax law, compared to heterosexual married couples. They say that the government's refusal to accept same-sex marriage applications thus violates the Constitution's Article 24 guaranteeing "freedom of marriage," and Article 14 guaranteeing "equality under the law."

(Japanese original by Akira Hattori, City News Department)

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