Japan OKs International Gay Marriage


“The Justice Ministry plans to enable Japanese nationals to marry same-sex partners who have citizenship in countries where gay marriage is legally approved, ministry sources said Thursday. The ministry will issue certificates necessary for such marriage of Japanese citizens and foreigners, the sources said, adding the ministry will soon convey the decision to its legal affairs bureaus across the nation, the sources said. The ministry has so far rejected the issuance of such certificates to Japanese citizens seeking to marry same-sex partners of foreign nationality as such marriages are not approved under domestic law.”

This does not legalize gay marriage in Japan. Rather, Japan will issue the appropriate paperwork for gay citizens who wish to marry same-sex partners in other countries where gay marriage is legal, but need the proper forms to process it.


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  • Alan

    So this means that Japan will recognize foreign same-sex marriages (between a Japanese national and a citizen of a nation that allows same-sex marraige), but not permit local same-sex marriage?

    If this understanding is correct, wouldn’t this would create a strong incentive for one person of each Japanese sex-sex couple to renounce their Japanese citizenship and apply for foreign citizenship?

    Surely the Japanese government would recognize the perverse nature of making a person choose between the possibility of marriage and all the civic and social security benefits that local citizenship endows?

  • Bruno

    So as long as the Japanese couple can afford to travel to the nearest country that would marry them (Canada?), they can be married in Japan. This doesn’t seem to be as huge a breakthrough as it should be.

  • Lex

    Isn’t this similar to Israel? From what I understand, they have the same policy.

  • atdleft

    @Lex: Perhaps? But does Japan only allow religious marriage like Israel does (in Israel’s case, through the synagogues)? But yes, Japan’s new policy on same-sex marriage seems quite similar to Israel’s (and for that matter, New York & Rhode Island in the US). So couples can’t get married in Japan, but they can fly to Nepal or Canada to get married & it will be recognized in Japan?

    I guess it’s progress, but it’s still unfair to all working-class gay & lesbian couples who can’t afford all that travel.

  • linolo88

    I’m no expert in Japanese culture but from everything I’ve gathered they’re generally a xenophobic country. To give someone the option of leaving their country to marry someone, regardless of the reason, seems like a caress on the cheek and a slap in the face all within the same gesture.

  • Alec

    @atdleft: Except in Israel they recognize the marriages of two Israeli citizens when performed in countries where two foreign nationals are permitted to marry. In other words, two Israeli nationals get married in Spain; neither has Spanish citizenship. Their marriage would be recognized in Israel. But only a marriage between a Japanese national and, say, a Spanish national would be recognized under the Japenese proposal.

    For a Japenese national who is with someone who has Spanish, Dutch, etc. citizenship, this is a great proposal. Now how many LGBT couples fall into that category in Japan? My guess is few.

  • tavdy79

    @Lex: No, it’s completely different – and it’s also comparable to an on-going conflict between Poland and some of the countries of western Europe. Many countries require a certificate to confirm that a foreign national is eligible for marriage before a license is granted; some countries, such as Poland, refuse to issue these if it is for SSM or an equivalent such as PACs, which has prevented Polish citizens from getting a SMM etc. in other EU/EFTA states. It sounds like Japan has also had that policy until now, and that this decision overturns it.

    The situation in Israel is that it recognises foreign SSM and native common-law marriages, but does not issue marriage certificates or licenses to same sex couples. The Japanese decision does not mention recognition of foreign same sex marriages – only that the Japanese government will no longer prevent them by withholding the certificates.


    If this understanding is correct, wouldn’t this would create a strong incentive for one person of each Japanese sex-sex couple to renounce their Japanese citizenship and apply for foreign citizenship?

    Under the previous policy, yes it would. Because Polish or Japanese citizens are/were effectively barred from SSM, the only option would be to apply for citizenship before the marriage or equivalent took place; usually it happens the other way round: marriage first, then citizenship some years later. However the new policy eliminates the need to get foreign citizenship in order to marry.

  • Ali

    This doesn’t actually mean beans for people in Japan. It just allows Japanese citizens to get the documentation to gay marry a foreigner in a foreign country that allows it. There is still no recognition of the marriage in Japan itself.

    The linked article definitely isn’t written in the clearest possible way.

  • John

    I agree with No 8 – this is only about Japanese citizens WITH PERMANENT RESIDENCE in other countries that happen to allow gay marriage.

    It is allowing that Japanese to marry in their new home country. The marriage will not be recognised in Japan!!!

  • Rino

    But still this is not fair because that means a gay Japanese can only get married to a citizen of Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Iceland. If a Japanese citizen is engaged with another person from any other country, they cannot get married. This is such a stupid law.

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