Japan court says same-sex marriage should be allowed

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TOKYO — A Japanese court for the first time ruled March 17 that same-sex marriage should be allowed under the country’s constitution, a moral victory that does not have any immediate legal consequence but could bolster efforts for legalization.

The Sapporo District Court said sexuality, like race and gender, is not a matter of individual preference, therefore prohibiting same-sex couples from receiving benefits given to heterosexual couples cannot be justified.

“Legal benefits stemming from marriages should equally benefit both homosexuals and heterosexuals,” the court said, according to a copy of the summary of the ruling. Judge Tomoko Takebe said in the ruling that not allowing same-sex marriages violates Article 14 of the Japanese constitution, which prohibits discrimination “because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”

The court was hearing a case brought by three same-sex couples who were seeking government compensation for the difficulties they had to suffer from not being able to legally marry. The court declined to financially compensate the plaintiffs.

The court’s ruling has no immediate legal effect and same-sex couples are still not allowed to marry. Nevertheless, activists say the ruling is a major victory that could influence similar court cases and help their efforts to push for parliamentary debate and changes to the law to allow same-sex marriage.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters that the government disagreed with the March 17 ruling.

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