Gay couples are fighting for marriage rights this Valentine’s Day.
According to Time Magazine, thirteen Japanese LGBTQ couples, five lesbian couples and eight gay couples specifically, have filed lawsuits on Valentine’s Day to pressure the government into recognizing marriage equality.
The couples are asking for one million yen’s ($9,000) worth of damages per person for being denied marriage rights.
“What we really want is a court ruling that says the failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional,” said attorney Akiyoshi Miwa, who is representing some of the couples, to AFP.
“The government’s failure to enact a law allowing same-sex marriage violates the constitutional principle that all people are equal under the law,” Miwa added.
Currently, a few cities and city wards offer “partnership” certificates to same-sex couples. Legally recognized partnerships are allowed some rights like medical treatment, property management, and more. That said, those rights are only recognized in specified cities or city sections.
In addition, Article 24 of Japan’s constitution currently states that “marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes.” This wording was created to prevent forced marriages, and lawyers for these thirteen couples say that the language doesn’t necessarily prohibit same-sex marriage.
Marriage Equality was not specifically banned under Japan’s constitution because it wasn’t predicted at the time of its creation. Historically, Japan has been fairly accepting when it comes to homosexuality. Not only are there recorded incidences of samurai warriors having male lovers, but several Japanese emperors did the same.
It wasn’t until Japan industrialized and opened up to Western culture (and religion) that homophobia and anti-gay tendencies spread.
Meanwhile, several polls show that Japan is becoming increasingly more supportive of marriage equality.
A 2015 survey by the Fuji News Network found 72 percent of respondents aged 20 and under supported gay marriage, according to the South China Morning Post. That said, only 24 percent of people aged 70 and over supported it.
But, things may be changing as a 2017 poll by national broadcaster NHK found that 51 percent of overall respondents supported same-sex marriage.
Despite the pushback against marriage equality in Japan, LGBTQ couples are adamant in the fight for their rights.
"Why don't we even have the simple choice of whether or not to get married?" asked
Yoko Ogawa, who’s one of the people that filed a Valentine’s Day lawsuit, to Channel News Asia.
Alexander Dmitrenko, a Canadian-born lawyer who currently lives in Tokyo with a Japanese partner, says he’s hopeful for these newly filed lawsuits.
“I am hoping that these cases will push the issue forward as a talking point,” he said. “The most beautiful thing in the world is to fall in love and be loved back. We need society to treat us equally and with respect and dignity.”