An American man in a same-sex marriage with a Japanese citizen has filed a lawsuit in the country demanding legal residence through his husband, the Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday.
Andrew High, who is an American citizen, wishes to change his status from a “temporary visitor” to a legal resident because his current situation prevents him and his partner from planning for their future together.
The lawsuit is aimed at highlighting the “absurdities” in Japanese law, which allows the spouses in a heterosexual marriage to gain legal residence in the country, but not those in a homosexual marriage. This is because Japan has not recognized same-sex marriage as lawful.
High is now arguing that this lack of provision is a form of discrimination of sexual orientation and a violation of the Japanese constitution’s guarantee of equality under the law.
Having met his partner while the latter was studying in the United States, the pair eventually settled down and got married in 2015 following the Supreme Court ruling recognizing same-sex marriages in America. After setting up his own company he gained residential status in Japan as a “business manager,” although when it started to fail it became more difficult to renew his status.
In a bid to properly establish himself in Japan, High, who lives in a Tokyo condominium with is partner, applied for status as a “long-term resident” status provided to individuals who believe their case has extenuating circumstances. However, authorities rejected his application five times, rejecting his plea for humanitarian consideration.
“Since I have no idea when I will no longer be allowed to live in Japan, we cannot purchase the proper furniture,” High complained. “I am always worried about what will happen one year from now.”
“Because I am a Japanese, I cannot maintain our life as a family because of Japanese law,” added his partner. “I feel like I am being forced to leave my own country.”
Another peculiarity in Japanese law applies to foreign same-sex couples who legally got married abroad. When granted residential status, they are classified as participating in “designated activities” rather than have their legal status recognized.
Out of the Group of Seven (G7) nations, Japan is the only one not to have recognized same-sex marriage. This is the case throughout the Asian continent, with Taiwan becoming the first Asian country to legalize it in May.
Japan is home to some of the world’s strictest immigration laws, with foreigners making up just 1.75 percent of the country’s population. The Japanese parliament last year passed a controversial immigration law aimed at attracting 345,000 foreign workers over the next five years, seeking to fill gaps in the country’s rapidly shrinking and aging workforce.