Ministry clears path to same-sex marriage

Kyodo News

The Justice Ministry plans to clear the path for Japanese nationals overseas to marry same-sex partners who are citizens of countries where such unions are legal, ministry sources said Thursday.

The ministry will issue certificates necessary for Japanese citizens to marry foreign citizens overseas, the sources said, adding the decision will soon be conveyed to legal affairs bureaus across the nation.

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.

To marry foreigners abroad, all Japanese nationals, regardless of sexual orientation, must obtain certificates from the ministry by submitting documents that include their name, birth data, sex and nationality, and similar information about their marriage partner.

Under the latest decision, the ministry will issue a new type of certificate that only certifies that the person has reached legal marriage age and is single.

“We were not able to get (the ministry) to forgo the clarification of gender. But I want to hail the Justice Ministry’s decision as a step forward (for gays),” said Taiga Ishikawa, who represents gay support group Peer Friends.

Ishikawa said Japanese gays were not able to marry even if their partner’s country allowed same-sex marriage because the Justice Ministry would not issue the certificate.

“And without being married they were unable to obtain visas for their partners to live together,” Ishikawa said.

Places that allow same-sex marriage include Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, South Africa and some U.S. states.