A district court in Osaka has ruled that Japan’s ban on same-sex marriages does not violate the constitution.
The ruling dealt a blow to gay couples and rights activists, after another district court, in Sapporo, ruled in 2021 the failure to recognize same-sex marriage was “unconstitutional”.
Japan’s constitution defines marriage as one between “both sexes”.
It is the only country in the G7 group of developed nations that doesn’t allow people of the same gender to marry.
The Osaka case was filed by three same-sex couples, two of whom were male and one female. The case is only the second of its kind to be heard in the country, where conservative attitudes towards homosexuality remain.
In addition to rejecting their claim that being unable to marry was unconstitutional, the court also dismissed their demands for 1 million yen ($7,414; £6,058) in damages for each couple.
It is not known if the plaintiffs plan to appeal against the decision.
“This is awful, just awful,” an unidentified female plaintiff said to reporters outside the courthouse in footage aired on public broadcaster NHK after the ruling.
The court’s decision is seen as a setback for gay rights activists and couples, who are hoping to ratchet up pressure on the Japanese government to address same-sex unions.
Japan’s constitution, put in place after the end of World War Two, defines marriage as one of “mutual consent between both sexes”.
Under the current rules, same-sex couples are not allowed to legally marry, can’t inherit their partner’s assets, and have no parental rights over their partner’s children.
Though partnership certificates issued by some individual municipalities help same-sex couples to rent a place together and have hospital visitation rights, they do not grant them the full legal rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
Activists also say conservative attitudes towards homosexuality remain, and many LGBTQ Japanese still do not dare to come out to their friends and family.