After a discussion a few weeks ago about the situation of gay politics and life in Japan and Taiwan, there seems to be a very significant update. The Japanese Ministry of Justice has apparently announced that gay marriages will now be recognized as legal in Japan, but only in the rare circumstance that a Japanese national has gotten married to a foreign national of a country which allows gay marriage. If such a couple gets married in a foreign jurisdiction which allows gay marriage, that marriage will also be recognized in Japan, but this is apparently NOT an option for a couple consisting of two Japanese nationals. I am slightly baffled at why they would want to go out of their way to create such a special case exemption, which is even more confusing than the rules for recognition of marriage between various US states.
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.
For Japanese nationals, whether they are gay or not, to marry foreigners in foreign countries, they must obtain certificates from the ministry by submitting documents including 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 which will only clarify that the person has reached the legal age for marriage and that he or she is single.
“We were not able to get (the ministry) to forgo the clarification of sexuality. 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 that Japanese gays were not able to get married to a gay foreigner even if their marriage partner’s country approved of same- sex marriage, because the Justice Ministry would not issue the certificate.
“And without marriage they were unable to obtain visas for their partners to live together,” Ishikawa said.
Yes, I suppose it is a major milestone and perhaps a step towards greater legal equality in Japan for all homosexuals, but what really is the point of this new regulation as-is? Who thought it made any kind of logical sense to create a right only for a Japanese to marry a foreigner of the same sex, but not for two Japanese of the same sex to get married? Actually, the last line quoted above gives the answer: by allowing Japanese gays or lesbians to marry their partner, that partner will now qualify for a spouse visa-which in many cases is the difference between allowing a relationship to continue or not. This is of course not an issue for two gay Japanese, who while strangely will now actually have less legal rights and privileges as a couple than one consisted of one Japanese and one foreigner, but at least will not have to worry about being separated due to the vagaries of immigration law.