Same-sex couples to sue Japan on Valentine's Day over right to get married

More than a dozen gay couples will file a lawsuit against the Japanese government on Thursday, seeking the right to get married.

The Valentine’s Day lawsuit, which lists 13 same-sex couples as plaintiffs, alleges that their constitutional rights to equality are being violated because the country does not allow them to marry, according to the BBC.

Japan does not allow same-sex marriage, though young people overwhelmingly support it, according to recent polls.

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The prohibition is based on a provision in Japan's constitution saying that "marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes.”

Lawyers representing the couples in the lawsuit say that the language in the constitution is intended to prevent forced marriages, and does not necessarily bar same-sex couples from marrying.

“The government’s failure to enact a law allowing same-sex marriage violates the constitutional principle that all people are equal under the law,” lawyer Akiyoshi Miwa told AFP.

The couples in the lawsuit are seeking damages of one million yen, or about $9,000, per person, according to Time. 

One couple, Ai Nakajima and Tina Baumann, were married in Germany but Japan does not recognize their marriage. This presents a challenge for Baumann’s right to stay in the country after she completes her studies, as the couple is not eligible for a spousal visa.

Nakajima, 40, told the BBC that they are prepared to take the case to the country’s supreme court.

“While among younger people there is an overwhelming support for gay marriage, politicians tend to be older and are very hesitant when it comes to changing things,” Nakajima told the BBC.

Some cities in Japan have begun issuing “partnership” certificates to recognize same-sex couples and protect some of their rights, but they are not legally binding.