A Japanese court has ruled for the first time that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry under the country’s constitution, signaling a major step towards marriage equality in Japan.
Judge Tomoko Takebe of the Sapporo District Court ruled Wednesday that prohibiting same-sex marriages is a violation of Article 14 of Japan’s constitution, which bans discrimination “because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”
The court found that sexuality, like gender and race, is not a preference. Therefore the judge said barring same-sex couples from accessing the same benefits as heterosexual couples, like inheritence of assets and parental rights over children, is unjustified, according to the Associated Press.
The court also rejected the six plaintiffs’ requests for financial compensation from the Japanese government for the pain of not being allowed to marry. The plaintiff’s lawyers said they plan to appeal that decision.
LGBTQ+ advocates celebrated the ruling outside the court on Wednesday, with crowds of lawyers and supporters standing outside the court holding up rainbow flags and a banner that read “a big first step toward equality.
“I hope this ruling serves as a first step for Japan to change,” a woman who identified herself as ‘Plaintiff No. 5’ told the AP.
Although the judge’s decision has no immediate effect on Japanese law, advocates hope it will set a precedent for other pending marriage equality cases in Japan. The ruling also paves the way for the Japanese government to create and implement nationwide same-sex marital laws.
Japan is currently the only G-7 nation to not formally recognize same-sex unions. If the country’s marriage laws change as a result of the court’s ruling, Japan will become the second Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, after Taiwan made the move in 2019.