Momentum is building to start serious discussions about legalizing same-sex marriage, a concept not officially recognized in Japan. A series of lawsuits have been filed by gay and lesbian couples seeking damages from the government, charging that refusal to grant same-sex marriage runs counter to the freedom of marriage and equality as guaranteed by the Constitution. A court ruling on a separate case earlier this month determined that domestic partners of the same sex should be covered, to a certain extent, by the same legal protections afforded to common-law marriages in this country.

However, lawmakers remain slow to even talk about whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. The government maintains that same-sex marriages are not assumed to take place under the Constitution. But as forms of families diversify, social values and common ways of thinking change. Same-sex couples meanwhile face a host of disadvantages because their partnerships are not legally recognized as marriage. It’s time that political discussions are launched as to what can be done, including legislative steps, to relieve them of the disadvantages.

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