Japan: Calls for same-sex marriage legalization growing in Japan

Calls are growing in Japan for same-sex marriage to be legalized so such couples can enjoy the same benefits that heterosexual couples do.

While six local governments currently recognize same-sex partnerships, ensuring couples the same treatment and entitlement to local services as married couples, most still face discrimination when searching for public housing, visiting a critically ill partner in hospital or inheriting property on the grounds that they are not family.

"Among the Group of Seven industrialized nations, only Japan has not yet introduced a same-sex marriage or same-sex partnership system at the state level," said Ken Suzuki, a law professor at Meiji University. "It is a shared awareness among advanced nations that excluding same-sex couples from the legal marriage framework constitutes discrimination against lesbians and gays."

Suzuki, who is also a professor emeritus at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, is gay and played an active role in campaigning for such system in the major northern city.

Still, he said, the introduction of a same-sex partnership system in Sapporo and other municipalities, including the Tokyo wards of Setagaya and Shibuya, combined with legalization of same-sex marriage in other countries, "have brought about positive knock-on effects to society."

Such moves have raised public awareness about LGBT rights and contributed to changing discriminatory attitudes, while helping raise LGBTs' self-esteem, he said. "The existence of LGBTs had been ignored, but these developments have gradually led the public to recognize us." Read more via Japan Today