Problems posed by Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage

In Japan, two individuals who are legally the same sex are not permitted to marry. Japan does not criminalize homosexuality, and same-sex couples are free to love each other. This may lead some to think, “if they’re allowed to love each other, does it even matter that same-sex couples can’t marry?” However, there are many problems that can arise from not being able to marry.

Situations in which couples are not acknowledged as such unless they are married

  • CASE 1Without a will, surviving partners can’t inherit a deceased partner’s property and may be evicted!

    If a married person passes away, the surviving spouse will be able to inherit at least a part of their property, even if they did not leave a will. However, if a couple is not married and the deceased person has not left a will, the surviving partner is not entitled to any of the deceased partners’ property regardless of how long they have lived together. If the house that the surviving partner lives in was legally owned by the deceased partner, they may even be evicted.

  • CASE 2Foreign partners are not granted residency

    If a heterosexual couple is in an international marriage, the foreign partner would be granted a spouse visa to reside in Japan. However, since same-sex couples cannot be legally married in Japan, a foreign partner in a same-sex relationship with a Japanese citizen would not be granted a spouse visa. If they work in Japan, they may be able to receive a visa through their employer. However, this is not a long-term solution since they can lose their visa if they leave their job. Even if same-sex international couples love each other, they may not even be able to live in the same country together.

  • CASE 3Same-sex partners do not have hospital visitation rights

    If a couple is married and one spouse becomes unconscious from illness or injury, the other spouse is allowed to visit them and receive details from their doctor as a family member. However, same-sex partners may not be considered family, and therefore may not be able to visit their loved one or talk to their doctor. There is no law that prohibits same-sex partners from hospital visitations, so it is left up to the individual hospitals. Some hospitals may not permit visitation because the partner is not legally family. Because same-sex couples cannot marry, they have to constantly worry about whether their relationship will be recognized in situations that legally married couples can take for granted.

  • CASE 4They may be separated from their deceased partners’ children

    If a same-sex couple raises a child that is biologically related to only one partner, the other partner cannot legally be their parent. If the other partner accompanies their child to a doctor’s visit, the hospital may turn them away and ask that the child come back with their legal parent or guardian. If the legal parent passes away without specifying the guardian of their child in their will, the surviving partner may be separated from the child that they raised because they are not legally related to each other.

There are many other situations in which same-sex couples are disadvantaged.


Comparison between Legal Marriage, (Heterosexual) Common-law Marriage, and Same-Sex Couples

  Legal Marriage    (Heterosexual) Common-law Marriage Same-sex Couples
Marriage Registration
Family Register same family register another family register another family register
Description on Certificate of Residence wife/husband wife(unregistered)/husband(Unregistered) N/A
Social recognition as a couple
Duty to Live Together, Cooperate and Provide Mutual Assistance
Legal right share・legitime
Duty to share expenses arising from marriage
Claims for distribution of assets upon dissolution of the relationship
Chastity duty (compensation for damages in case of cheating) There is a judicial precedent
Spouse deduction (of income tax)
Reduction of inheritance tax
Spouse visa
Child custody joint custody mother in principle (changing to the father and the mother loses custody) only one side
Can a surviving partner become the guardian of the child if the parent passes away? (custody change procedures required) (It is possible to designate a guardian of a minor in a will)
Crime Victim Compensation Program survivor benefits There is a court case in which this was denied (under appeal)
Social Insurance

Health insurance dependents

Public Pension Insurance Type 3 insureds

Survivors’ pension

Hospital visits, explanation of medical conditions, and consent to surgery

When same-sex couples may encounter these circumstances, is it really enough to simply be allowed to love each other? Same-sex couples love each other in the same way heterosexual couples do. Is it really fair that same-sex couples are prohibited from getting married?

Furthermore, doesn’t being prohibited from marriage solely on the basis of sex impair the dignity of the individual?
In order to reduce inequality and restore dignity to same-sex couples in Japan, we aspire to a society in which everyone has the freedom to choose to marry regardless of sex.