Sympodium on status of residence for same-sex couples composed of a Japanese national and a foreign national

In March of this year, the news that a Taiwanese national received an eviction order after his beloved same-sex partner passed away spread among the Japanese gay community. They had been together for more than 20 years. After he was given the order, he asked for the revocation of the order by filing cases against the Japanese government, claiming that it is a violation of equality under the laws.

Mr.G is a middle-aged gay man living in the region of Kanto. He came to Japan with a student visa in 1992 after his family kicked him out because of his sexuality as gay. After his student visa was expired, he came to Japan with a short-stay visa. During his stay in Japan, he met his partner and started living together in 1994. The following year, he found out that he was HIV-positive and started the treatment with the support from his partner. When his partner became sick and unable to work, he worked hard to make ends meet. Just like that, the couple had been supporting each other for a long time.

His short-stay visa was expired in 1994, but there was no way he could go back to his country considering the fact that his family had kicked him out. He kept staying in Japan secretly until 2013 when he met a lawyer with the support from a support group for people living with HIV. He was consulting with the lawyer about receiving special permission for residence even under the circumstances that he had lived in Japan illegally for a long time.

However, he was arrested in June of last year for illegal residence. The Immigration Bureau issued the eviction order last November. He can be evicted at any time.

The reasons why he could not receive special permission for residence remain unknown, but the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Justice say that being married with a Japanese national, including common-law marriage, is one of the factors necessary for special permission for residence. In the lawsuit, he is going to bring up the fact that their relationship wasn’t considered equivalent as marriage because they are a same-sex couple, hoping that the Japanese government will revoke the eviction order.

They had lived together for 23 years. His partners was in his 50’s. A lot of heterosexual couples like Mr. G and his partner could receive special permission for residence. “We got old together. He is my family. I want to spend the rest of my life with him in Japan,” Mr. G said.

The symposium on this lawsuit took place at Meiji University on December 10th of this year.
Two lawyers, Yuki Maruyama and Yasushi Nagano, came to the symposium and helped the audience understand the issues surrounding special permission for residence for foreign nationals, bringing up the fact that the current system is discriminatory against same-sex couples and Mr.G would have definitely received the special permission for residence if he had been in a heterosexual relationship. Both of the lawyers also pointed out the fact that same-sex couples composed of foreign nationals whose home country has legalized same-sex marriage are able to receive special permission for residence, insisting that the ways the government decides who to get special permission for residence must not differ from one person to another just because they are from different countries.

Ken Suzuki, a professor of Meiji University, criticized the government saying “other lawsuit cases clearly show that the exclusion and discrimination against sexual minority are forbidden when it comes to administration. Their human rights must be protected and being in a state of indifference should not be tolerated.”

A few same-sex couples composed of a Japanese national and a foreign national came up to the stage and talked about the issues regarding special permission for residence.

Many same-sex couples composed of foreign nationals were invited to the symposium by Bi-National Same-sex Couples and they asked for better awareness of their issues.

At the end of the symposium, the organizer asked the audience for their support. Mr. G’s lawsuit is to start at Tokyo District Court next February.