Same-sex couples in Hokkaido appealed Monday a high court ruling earlier this month that recognized Japan's lack of legal recognition of same-sex marriage as unconstitutional but denied them damages for emotional distress.

The appeal, filed with the Supreme Court, came after the Sapporo High Court upheld a lower court's landmark verdict in 2021 that said non-recognition of same-sex marriage violates the right to equality protected under the Constitution but rejected a claim for damages totaling 6 million yen ($39,700) sought by three same-sex couples, who cited emotional suffering.

Eri Nakaya, 32, one of the plaintiffs, said, "If we back out now, legal recognition will not be achieved in the foreseeable future. I hope the Supreme Court will also declare (the same-sex marriage ban) unconstitutional."

Eri Nakaya, one of the plaintiffs who appealed a high court ruling on same-sex marriage, speaks to reporters in Sapporo, northern Japan, on March 25, 2024. (Kyodo)

Another 52-year-old plaintiff, who declined to be named, said, "We are demanding our obvious right to recognition of equality in marriage."

The ruling on March 14, the first by a high court among six lawsuits filed at five district courts questioning the current laws' non-acceptance of same-sex marriage, said the provisions violate not only Article 14 on the right to equality but also Article 24, which says marriage shall be only on the mutual consent of "both sexes."

The court stated for the first time that Article 24 can be understood as also guaranteeing marriage between individuals of the same sex.

Between March 2021 and June 2023, the Sapporo and Nagoya district courts ruled that disallowing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, while the Tokyo and Fukuoka district courts said it was in a "state of unconstitutionality." The Osaka District Court said the lack of legal recognition was constitutional.

In a separate case brought by other same-sex couples in Tokyo, the Tokyo District Court ruled earlier this month the lack of legal recognition of their marriage was in a state of unconstitutionality.

Every court has dismissed compensation claims.

In June 2022, the Osaka District Court ruled that not legally recognizing same-sex marriage is not unconstitutional, saying there had not been enough discussion in the country on the issue.

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