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Japan court rules that not allowing same-sex marriage is ‘in a state of unconstitutionality’

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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan’s Fukuoka District Court ruled on Thursday that not allowing same-sex marriage was “in a state of unconstitutionality” in a complicated ruling that fell short of marriage-equality activists’ expectations.

The ruling came a week after another district court said it was unconstitutional to not allow same-sex marriage, bolstering hopes of the LGBTQ community in Japan, the only Group of Seven nation without legal protection for same-sex unions.

Five rulings on same-sex marriage have now been handed down around Japan – two saying bans on it are unconstitutional and one saying they were not. A Tokyo ruling upheld the ban on same-sex marriage but said a lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said details of the ruling were still being verified but that he thought it was likely to be similar to that of the Tokyo court. When it was handed down, activists saw that ruling as a step forward.

Opinion polls show about 70% of the public supports same-sex marriage, but the conservative ruling party of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida opposes it.

Kishida in February sacked an aide after he sparked outrage by saying that people would flee Japan if same-sex marriage was allowed and that he didn’t want to live next to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender couples.

Kishida has remained noncommittal about the issue despite strong pressure from other G7 nations, especially the United States, in the run-up to Japan’s hosting of the G7 leaders’ summit last month.

Key business lobbies have called for change, arguing that without diversity including LGBTQ rights, the world’s third-largest economy will not remain globally competitive.

More than 300 municipalities throughout Japan covering about 65% of the population allow same-sex couples to enter partnership agreements, but their rights are limited. Partners can’t inherit each other’s assets or have parental rights to each other’s children, and hospital visits aren’t guaranteed.

Kishida’s government promised to pass a law promoting “understanding” of LGBT people before the summit, but opposition from conservatives delayed it so much that a watered-down version is likely to come to a vote next week.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and GErry Doyle)

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