Same-sex marriage in Japan

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Legal status of
same-sex relationships
  1. Can be registered also in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
  2. Licensed in some counties in Kansas but same-sex marriage is not recognized by the state
  3. Only licensed in St. Louis (city), St. Louis County, & Jackson County (but only St. Louis (city) is required to).
  4. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  5. Most counties in Alabama issued same-sex marriage licenses for several weeks after a federal court found that state's ban unconstitutional, but all stopped by 4 March 2015 following an order by the state supreme court
  6. Only if married in Michigan when same-sex marriage was legal

*Not yet in effect

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Same-sex marriage is not legal in Japan. Also, no notable political discussion take place in regard to this matter as reported by Japan Times.[1]

Legal Status of same-sex marriage[edit]

Article 24 of the Japanese constitution states that "Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis." Previous to the current constitution, a couple in Japan could marry only if their respective head of household (father, or in the absence of father, the eldest son) consented to the union. As a result, arranged marriage was dominant form of marriage. Those couples who could not obtain permission had to elope and stay in common law marriage.

The purpose of the article 23 of the new constitution was to assert freedom of consenting adult to marry and explicitly establish the equality of both sex in marriage. However, wording inadvertently defined marriage as a union of husband and wife. Some legal scholar, argues that, because the intent behind article was not in reference to the same sex marriage, the article need not apply in legalising the same sex marriage. However, conservative law makers as well as legal scholar who takes textual approach to constitutional interpretation argue such argument is a stretch. [2]

Koseki system as a substitute for marriage[edit]

In Japan, each citizen is registered through koseki system whereby individual is registered as a part of household (while in West, birth certificate act as a proof of identity of individual). Koseki registration perform somewhat similar role of marriage in West as it endow a member of the same koseki member a legal power (as next to kin) in dealing with civil matter such as inheritance, hospital visit or right to organise funeral. Therefore, registering each other as a part of koseki work as a substitute of marrage in West. As a consequence, Japanese gay couple, in the absence of the same sex marriage or civil partnership law, often use adoption procedure to register themselves as belonging to the same household (where older partner technically adopt the younger partner, which in absence of wife/husband, make the only adopted child as the sole executor of that household).

Beginning April 1, 2015, Shibuya ward office in central Tokyo is offering same-sex couples special, partnership certificate which is stated to be equivalent to marriage. While these licenses are not legally recognized as a marriage certificate, it is still useful tool in civil matters such as hospital visit. [1]

In response to action by Shibuya ward office, the "Special Committee to Protect Family Ties" (家族の絆を守る特命委員会) by the Liberal Democratic Party was formed in March 2014 to discuss the matter. An officer from the Ministry of Justice who was invited to comment has stated that the action by Shibuya ward is legal because the certificate issued is not marriage certificate and the current Japanese legal code does not prohibit "partnership" of the same sex couple. [2]


On March 27, 2009, it was reported that Japan has given the green light for its nationals to marry same-sex foreign partners in countries where same-sex marriages are legal. Japan does not allow same-sex marriages domestically and has so far also refused to issue a key document required for citizens to wed overseas if the applicant's intended spouse was of the same legal sex. Under the change, the justice ministry has instructed local authorities to issue the key certificate—which states a person is single and of legal age—for those who want to enter same-sex marriages.[3]

In June 2011, the deputy head abbot of Kyoto's Shunkō-in Zen temple announced that the temple would perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in the temple as part of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.[4]

Since May 15, 2012, the Tokyo Disney Resort has allowed symbolic (not government recognized) same-sex marriage ceremonies in its Cinderella's Castle hotel.[5] On March 3, 2013, its first same-sex marriage was held.[6] Koyuki Higashi married her partner, who was only identified by the name Hiroko.[7]

Public opinion[edit]

A May 2013 Ipsos poll found that out of over a thousand Japanese adult interviewees, 24% of respondents were in favor of same-sex marriage and another 27% supported other form of recognition for same-sex couples.[8] An April 2014 Ipsos poll found 26% respondents were in favor of same-sex marriage and 24% were in favor of some other form of recognition for couples.[9]

According to the survey by Nihon Yoron Chosa-ka, conducted on 1 and 2 March 2014, 42.3% of Japanese supported or somewhat supported same-sex marriage, while 52.4% oppose or somewhat oppose it.[10]

See also[edit]