Why is same-sex marriage not permitted in Japan anyway?
Marriage is defined by a category of law called “Civil Law.”
According to civil law, there are several restrictions such as “men must be over 18, women over 16” that may forbid one from getting married. However, there are no statements like “a man cannot marry another man/a woman cannot marry another woman” that outright forbid marriage between members of the same sex.
However, the civil law uses terms such as “husband and wife,” which define marriage as something between a man and a woman. The current interpretation of the law is that a union between individuals of the same sex is not prescribed by this definition of marriage. Therefore, in Japan if a same-sex couple submits a marriage registration, it will not be accepted.
Is there any way to get married?
If the Constitution of Japan forbids marriage between members of the same sex, then the issue is not just a matter of changing the law, as you cannot pass a law that goes against the Constitution.
The first sentence of Article 24 of the Japanese Constitution states “Marriage shall be based on the mutual consent of both sexes,” and most people will point out that consent between two men or two women cannot be considered as one between “both sexes.”
However, if you consider Article 24 from its historical context, then that logic becomes flawed: that is, in the past one’s family was considered of greater importance than the individual, therefore without the agreement of the head of the household it was not possible for two people to get married. The will of the individual, and especially that of women, was often neglected. As a result, in order to respect the individual’s will, as well as equality between genders, marriage came to be defined as being “based on the mutual consent of both sexes.” Therefore the main point is that there is consent between the two primary parties of the marriage.
Furthermore, when the Constitution was established in 1946, marriage between members of the same sex was not considered, therefore one can say that the first sentence of Article 24 does not actually forbid same-sex marriage.
With this interpretation, it becomes possible to make same-sex marriage legal, as doing so does not go against the Constitution.
What can I do to help?
How can one change the law?
The law is created by the National Diet. A member of the Diet must see the need to amend the law and act upon it.
If the Diet refuses to change the law, it is possible for it to be put on trial and have the court sentence it for neglect of duty.
The reason that I have called for a trial this time is to compel the Diet to take action by having the court sentence it for neglect of duty in not changing the laws regarding same-sex marriage.
However going through a trial takes time, and it is faster and easier if the Diet can just take action on its own.
In order for same-sex marriage to be realized in Japan, members of the Diet must take action themselves.
So how do we get them to do so?
The words of Evan Wolfson, who took great efforts to fight for freedom of marriage in the USA, comes to mind: “The more people share their stories of family, love, and harm from discrimination, the more likely it is that people’s hearts will be moved to change the status quo.”
Even if you do not have such stories yourself, any person can speak up about the fact that there are friends, family, coworkers, or even people they do not know that want to get married but are not able to in Japan.
Please join us in taking this important first step together.
Just because it is not a part of the system, there are people who are denied something as simple as being with the person they love. Of course, changing the system may not change the general public’s view on the subject completely; however, a change in the system can have a great impact on how people see the issue.
Let’s make same-sex marriage a reality in Japan and make marriage something for everyone by sharing our stories.