Helping Japan Move, Slowly but Surely, to Marriage Equality

By March 19, 2021 Newsroom, Publications, Regional

Sexual minorities celebrate the passage of an ordinance certifying same-sex couples as having a relationship equivalent to marriage

Takeharu Kato

Director, Marriage for All Japan
Board member of Marriage For All Japan (MFAJ)

Marriage For All Japan (MFAJ) was originally founded by lawyers who were involved in the “Freedom of Marriage for All” lawsuit, but now, with the addition of people from major advertising agencies, video producers, media relations specialists and LGBT issue activists, MFAJ has about 30 members who are organized in the following teams: External Relations, Litigation Support, Events, Public Relations, Corporate Relations, Lobbying, International Relations, Research, Human Resources, and Fundraising.

Our members

Understanding Japan’s Situation Concerning Marriage Equality

Japan’s legal system does not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, but as the Civil Code and Family Registration Law use the term “husband and wife” Japanese laws strictly interpret marriage only between a man and a woman.

According to various public opinion polls, the percentage of people who are in favor of legalizing marriage between same-sex couples is over 50%, and more than 70% of young people and women support same-sex marriage.

In 2015, two wards in Tokyo – Shibuya and Setagaya – introduced a same-sex partnership registration system in which local governments recognize a “relationship equivalent to marriage” for same-sex couples. By February 2021, registration was accepted by 76 local governments nationwide, representing more than a third of the population. This is a positive development, but the same -sex partnership does not have legal effect, such as inheritance or tax deduction, and support to legalizing same-sex marriage is growing stronger and stronger.

“The opinion that same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry is growing day by day”

says Takeharu Kato (Director, Marriage for All Japan)
Group discussion Let’s talk about same-sex marriage

In June 2019, three opposition parties submitted to the Japanese parliament (Diet) a bill to amend the Civil Code to legalize same-sex marriages. However, the legal debate did not find much traction because the ruling party, with its main support base in the conservative constituencies, repeatedly stated that the constitution of Japan does not envisage same-sex marriage and that legalization is “an issue that relates to the very foundation of the family values and requires careful consideration”.

“ …we need not only to win in court, but also to conduct educational activities to gain stronger support from public opinion … “

Takeharu Kato

Under the above circumstances, the MFAJ was launched in 2019 as the pivotal organization to develop lobbying activities with the legislature alongside public and community support. 

Tokyo Rainbow Parade

Reaching out to communities and lawmakers

Marriage for All Japan provides regular updates in its newsletter and website  on its own activities, shares domestic and international information on marriage equality and issues briefs on the “Freedom to Marry for All” lawsuit. MFAJ reaches out through Twitter (@marriage4all), Facebook (@marriageforalljapan) and YouTube. Regular events titled “Let’s Talk About Same-Sex Marriage” encourage more debate on same-sex marriages in Japan.

Visiting LDP Diet member

Expanding the domestic and international network – exploring new partnerships

MFAJ has called on LGBTI and other organizations to strengthen its network on the domestic front in order to expand activities and increase lobbying with the legislature. To date, some 80 organizations have joined ranks.

A survey on the difficulties faced by same-sex couples in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic was conducted in April 2020 and the results were submitted to the government in the form of a request letter. Discussions with lawmakers intensified and in November 2020, MFAJ successfully organized a second Diet rally on marriage equality which was broadcast live on the internet.

Marriage equality session at ILGA Asia Conference Seoul 2019

In November 2020, MFAL launched a campaign “Business for Marriage Equality” and set up a website  to work with and give visibility to companies that support marriage equality. To date, some 138 companies and organizations in Japan have expressed their support.

On the international front, MFAJ is interacting with other national organizations, including Freedom to Marry Global in the United States and coalitions such as Open for Business with which MFAJ released a report on the economic impact on countries and companies of the legalization of same-sex marriages.

Our recent MFAJ activities included a campaign around the first ruling on the “Freedom of Marriage for All” lawsuit in March 2021 and follow-up on other future lawsuits, continuous lobbying with lawmakers, a film festival on same-sex marriages, petitions and fund raising.

MFAJ is determined to continue its mission to legalize same-sex marriages in Japan in the coming years.

Panel session feat. Evan Wolfson

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