Japan GCs recognize LGBT marriage rights

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The Japan In-house Lawyers Association (JILA) has recommended that the right to marry between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples be legalized under the laws of Japan.

Following a press conference that included the JILA, the association’s president, Miki Sakakibara, wrote a letter to members that said the purpose of this recommendation is to address various challenges concerning essential elements of the workplace environment that are faced by companies doing business in Japan.

“More specifically, many employers have voiced their concerns with the hiring and retention of talent, as well as equitable treatment of the full diversity of their workforces under the current legal regime,” said Sakakibara.

On 19 September 2018, the American Chamber of Commerce made a public announcement with respect to its recommendation letter encouraging the government of Japan to extend the right to marry of LGBT couples. The Australia and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan, the British Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce agreed with the American chamber’s statement, holding a joint press conference on the same day. The Danish Chamber of Commerce Japan later added its endorsement.

“It is widely understood that legalizing marriage among LGBT couples would help most companies eliminate disadvantages in hiring and retaining competent staff and provide fair and equitable treatment of employees while doing business in Japan,” said Sakakibara.

She said encouraging the equal treatment of the LGBT community is a meaningful activity in pursuit of the goals of: (1) gaining a competitive advantage in attracting talent globally; (2) encouraging a more diversified, productive workplace environment; and (3) supporting a more inclusive community.

“Fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace is absolutely essential in order to retain internationally recognized talent,” she said. “Legalizing marriage of LGBT couples would be a significant step forward in Japan’s reinvigoration of its economic growth.”

Notably, Sakakibara said the above-mentioned international chambers of commerce are not the only supporters of liberalizing Japan’s marriage laws. Japan-based LLAN (Lawyers for LGBT and Allies Network) and LGBT Finance have also given supportive statements.

Some Japanese companies have also implemented practical measures that enable partners of LGBT employees to receive the same family benefits as spouses of all other employees. “These trends are based on the proper understanding of the diversified sexual orientations of human beings, as well as the true extent of fundamental human rights,” Sakakibara said.

“JILA constituents are uniquely suited in their role as lawyers qualified in Japan (bengoshi) to serve the public as guardians of fundamental human rights, and they are also a community of legal professionals who play important roles in ensuring productive and comfortable work environments in their respective organizations,” she said. “Therefore, JILA believes that it is our social responsibility to be an active supporter of legalization of LGBT marriage rights.”