The Path to Legalization

Why is same-sex marriage not permitted in Japan anyway?

Marriage is established by the Civil Code.
According to the Civil Code, there are several restrictions on marriage such as that “men must be over 18, women over 16.” However, the Civil Code does not stipulate that “a man cannot marry another man/a woman cannot marry another woman” that would outright forbid marriage between people of the same sex.
But the Civil Code does establish the premise that marriage is between a man and a woman, such as by using the phrase “husband and wife.”
Therefore, the currently accepted legal interpretation is that same-sex marriage is not currently not prescribed by this definition of marriage.
Unfortunately, if a same-sex couple applies for marriage in Japan, their application will be rejected.

Is there any way that same-sex couples can get married?

If the Japanese Constitution forbids marriage between people 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.” Some believe that consent between two men or two women cannot be considered as consent between “both sexes.”
However, if you consider Article 24 from its historical context, then that logic is flawed: in the past, one’s family (or ie) was considered more important than the individual, and therefore marriage required the consent of the head of the household. The will of the individual, and especially that of women, was often ignored. As a result, in order to respect the individuals’ wishes as well as advance gender equality, marriage came to be defined as being “based on the mutual consent of both sexes.” From this historical background, we can see that the main point of Article 24 is that marriage requires the consent of the two primary parties.
Furthermore, when the Constitution was established in 1946, marriage between members of the same sex was not taken into account, and the Constitution was not intended to prohibit same-sex marriage. Therefore, one could say that the first sentence of Article 24 does not actually forbid same-sex marriage.
As legalizing same-sex marriage does not go against the Constitution according to this interpretation, this opens up the possibility of making same-sex marriage a reality.

Click here for more information about the Constitution and same-sex marriage.

What can individuals do to help?

How can we 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 take action.
If the Diet drags its feet on changing the law, it is possible to take the matter to court and have a judge rule that the Diet is neglecting its duties.
The reason we are currently taking the matter to court is to compel the Diet to take action by having the court rule that the Diet is neglecting its duties by not changing laws to allow same-sex marriage.
We now have lawsuits in Sapporo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka.
We look forward to seeing you at the trials and supporting us.
However, it takes time for a trial to reach an outcome; it would be much faster if the Diet would take action on its own.

So, how do we encourage members of the Diet to take action?
The words of Evan Wolfson, who went to great lengths to fight for freedom of marriage in the US, come 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 unable to do so in Japan.
Please join us in taking this important first step together.
There are people who are denied something as simple as being with the person they love just because they are excluded from the marriage system. Of course, changing the system may not change the general public’s view on the subject completely, but a change in the system can have a huge impact on how people see the issue.
Let’s make same-sex marriage a reality in Japan and make marriage accessible for everyone by coming together and sharing our stories.

Many members of the Diet send us messages to support legalizing same-sex marriage. We hope to make same-sex marriage a reality in Japan.