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Same-sex couple sues Japanese gov't claiming inability to marry is unconstitutional

Kosuke, center, and Masahiro, center, are seen walking with their lawyers to file their suit at the Fukuoka District Court in Chuo Ward, Fukuoka, on Sept. 5, 2019. (Mainichi/Keisuke Muneoka)

FUKUOKA -- A same-sex couple filed a lawsuit on Sept. 5 seeking damages from the Japanese government for the non-recognition of the legal marriage between same-sex couples, which they argue is unconstitutional.

Suits questioning the law's stance on same-sex marriages were filed simultaneously at four district courts, in Tokyo and other areas, in February. But this action, lodged at the Fukuoka District Court, is the first time such a case has been launched in the Kyushu and Yamaguchi areas of western Japan.

The couple behind the suit, Kosuke, 30, and Masahiro, 31, said, "We want to make same-sex marriage in Japan a reality, and reduce the number of people who will be concerned by these same issues in the future."

Both plaintiffs are company employees, and they have refrained from releasing their surnames or the spelling of their names using kanji characters. They became a couple in May 2017, and the following month they started living together.

This July they attempted to file a marriage registration at a ward office in the city of Fukuoka, but they were told that a marriage application in which the relevant parties were both men was not legal, and their request was turned down.

The Constitution of Japan guarantees freedom of marriage and equality under the law. Among its arguments, their suit maintains that the inability for same-sex couples to marry is unconstitutional and the National Diet has unreasonably neglected its legislative duty to enable them to wed. Both seek compensation of 1 million yen each for their mental suffering.

The Fukuoka Municipal Government introduced the "partnership oath system" that recognizes LGBT couples as partners in April 2018, and the pair began using the system from June that year. But it does not bestow the legal rights and obligations arising from marriage, nor does it allow for inheritance or joint ownership when taking out loans to buy a home, thereby blocking couples from advantages available to heterosexual couples.

In addition to arguing that their legal rights have been stolen from them, the suit also asserts that their dignity has been undermined by their inability to marry. They say the lack of recognition for same-sex marriage has encouraged discriminatory views that their lives are "abnormal and inferior compared to heterosexual couples."

(Japanese original by Keisuke Muneoka, Kyushu News Department)

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