On April 26th, a gay man, aged 69, filed a lawsuit against his partner’s family after they supplanted the couple’s company and refused to let the gay man attend the funeral.
The gay man had lived with his partner, eight years older than him, since 1971. The couple had run a company together, but his partner was the CEO & the president of the company. He had been hospitalized many times for prostate cancer, so the gay man had to work for him and visited him in the hospital every day. The couple had decided to pursue adoption so that the two could keep their property and company, but the partner died suddenly of a heart attack before the adoption in March, 2016.
Then the partner’s sister showed up. She had seemed to be supportive of their relationship, but after his death, she prohibited the gay man from seeing his dead body and attending the funeral. What’s worse, she told the gay man their relationship “meant nothing” and hired a lawyer to keep him away saying “you have no rights whatsoever.” She took over the bank account and sent business closing notice to the couple’s clients. On April 26th, the gay man filed a lawsuit against her for taking away his rights as a partner based on sexual discrimination and causing emotional distress. He also demanded she pay seven million yen for emotional distress and return all she had taken away from him.
He had never thought he would face the legal issues before his partner’s death. He realized how important it was to have legal benefits heterosexual couples usually have.”We have never caused any troubles. We were just living together happily. We face discrimination just because of who we are. We deserve the same rights as other people,” said the gay man.
People who are not married with their partner are not allowed to inherit his or her property even if they are a heterosexual couple. Supreme Court of Japan also denies the inheritance rights. However, the gay man’s lawyer believes the Japanese laws are discriminatory against homosexual couples. “If same-sex partnership is legalized in Japan, it will protect their rights as a partner and eliminate discrimination against them. It can never be tolerated to unfairly treat same-sex couples under law. I want social atmosphere that tolerates discrimination and prejudice against them to disappear,” said his lawyer.
According to Ken Suzuki, a professor of Meiji University Faculty of Law, same-sex couples are sometimes not allowed to organize their partner’s funeral or inherit his or her property even though their partner leaves a will or an official written statement of inheritance because their partner’s parents can reject it. “Not having laws that can protect partners’ rights leads to all these problems. It surely will make a huge impact on society if this case can prove homosexual couples deserve the same rights as heterosexual married couples,” said Ken Suzuki.