SYDNEY (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – In Japan, 13 same-sex couples will go to court on Valentine’s Day calling for the right to marry, in a bid to become the first Asian country to allow gay marriage.
The couples will file suits on Feb. 14 in at least four cities, including Tokyo, claiming the government is violating their constitutional rights to equal treatment, said one of their lawyers, Yoshie Yokoyama.
“Not recognising same sex marriage violates this.”
Japan’s laws on LGBT+ rights are relatively liberal compared with many Asian countries, with homosexual sex legal since 1880. But being openly gay remains largely taboo and opponents say such unions could destroy society and family institutions.
While gay marriage is illegal in Japan, in some areas couples can get a certificate that grants them similar rights to married couples, making it easier to rent apartments and visit each other in hospital.
This means Nakajima cannot apply for a visa for Baumann, who fears being deported if she fails to find work after her studies.
“There are many international Japanese same-sex couples, but since there is no law to recognise and protect our relationship, there are many people who choose to not live in Japan even if they want to,” Nakajima said.
Same-sex couples in Japan are also denied parental rights to their partners’ children and to inherit their partners’ assets when they die, said Yokoyama.
“Japan can be one of the first Asian countries, like Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, to really show respect to equality and non-discrimination by guaranteeing rights are enjoyed by all citizens,” she said in emailed comments.
Moves are under way in Thailand to debate allowing civil partnerships, while Taiwan voters rejected marriage equality in a referendum last year.
Vietnam allows gay marriage ceremonies but couples do not enjoy the same legal protections as heterosexuals.
(Reporting by Adeshola Ore; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)