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Japanese LGBT Couples to File Valentine’s Day Lawsuits Demanding Marriage Equality

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Thirteen LGBT couples across Japan will file lawsuits on Valentine’s Day, hoping to add pressure on the government to recognize marriage equality, Agence France-Presse reports.

The five lesbian and eight gay couples are seeking damages of one million yen ($9,000) per person for being denied marriage rights.

While Japan’s constitution states that “marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes”, legal experts argue that the language is intended to ensure consent between prospective spouses and prevent forced marriages. Lawyers for the plaintiffs and others say this language does not necessarily prohibit marriage between same-sex partners.

“The government’s failure to enact a law allowing same-sex marriage violates the constitutional principle that all people are equal under the law,” Akiyoshi Miwa, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, told AFP.

A survey published in January found nearly 80% of Japanese people aged 20 to 59 are in favor of legalizing gay marriage.

Currently, a handful of cities and city wards issue “partnership” certificates to same-sex couples. The documents recognize some next-of-kin legal rights, like medical treatment and property management. But they are not universally availably and fall short of full marriage rights, which typically include spousal visas and inheritance.

“What we really want is a court ruling that says the failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional,” said Miwa.

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Write to Hillary Leung at hillary.leung@time.com