A court in Japan has ruled that the government’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage is “unconstitutional” and violates the “right to equality.”

The Sapporo District Court in Hokkaido province issued a first-of-its-kind verdict on Wednesday, ruling that the government’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage violates the right to equality, according to Kyodo News. The court was hearing a case filed by three same-sex couples.

However, it rejected the couples’ demand for compensation for what they called “psychological damage” caused by the government’s alleged negligence in not amending the law to allow same-sex marriage.

They had sought one million yen ($9,000) in damages per person. Last year, at least 16 such couples filed similar lawsuits, the news report said.

The case of three couples in Hokkaido — two male couples and one female couple — was filed after they tried to register for marriages with local authorities in January last year. They were told that same-sex marriage has no legal standing, the report added.

The court ruled the government is violating Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution which ensures the right to equality.

Defender lawyers argued the article preserves gender equality and individual respect, and it does not preclude marriage between the same sexes.

The government side also indicated the term “husband and wife” used in civil law and family registration law refers to a man and a woman, and thus it cannot accept marriage applications from same-sex couples, the report added.

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