Two gay couples who reside in Britain where same-sex marriage has been the law of the land for the past decade were among those recently celebrating the historic occasion, which granted them the freedom to marry the person of their choice.

While both couples have found equality liberating following Britain's landmark enactment of the Marriage Act on March 29, 2014, for Japan-born Kan, 32, being able to tie the knot with husband Tom, 29, was more a mixed blessing as it meant having to leave behind his native country, where even today same-sex marriage is not permitted.

On the historic day 10 years ago, Benjamin Till and Nathan Taylor, both Londoners and now 49, became "poster boys" for same-sex marriage through their nationally broadcast TV special "Our Gay Wedding: The Musical."

Kan, from Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan, and Tom, who is British, also grabbed headlines for appearing in a 2019 episode of the hit Netflix show "Queer Eye." They met in 2016 while Kan was studying abroad in London.

Photo taken on Feb. 17, 2024, shows married couple Tom (L) and Kan at the bar where they first met in Soho, London. (Kyodo)

After a few years of dating long-distance between Britain and Japan, the couple married in September 2021 in Scotland before settling in London. But the choice of where they could exchange their vows was not up to them.

"If we could get married in Japan, I might not have emigrated," Kan, a prominent marriage equality activist within Japan's LGBTQ+ community, told Kyodo News. "It's frustrating and disappointing that I don't have autonomy over my own life decisions and possibilities."

On July 17, 2013, the Marriage Act passed through Britain's parliament, allowing the first same-sex couples in England and Wales to wed on March 29 the following year, with Scotland following in December and Northern Ireland in 2020.

Till and Taylor were among the first couples to marry. Commemorating how symbolic this was for the LGBTQ+ community was deeply important to them, they said.

Till, a composer, and Taylor, an actor and singer, met in 2002 while working on a musical in London's West End, three years before civil partnerships for same-sex couples were legalized in 2005.

But at the time, the idea of civil partnerships never occurred to them despite seeing them as "a necessary first step (for) getting the bill passed for marriage equality," Taylor said.

"We were still young, so it wasn't something we wanted to rush into," he said, adding, "And a lot of gay rights groups criticized civil partnerships, because different is not equal."

Till said he and Taylor likely "rejected the idea because when you grow up without that possibility, you tend to go, 'This isn't for us.' You have a lot of internalized shame around it."

Legislation to convert civil partnerships into marriages did not pass until months after March 29. Till and Taylor were one of the few couples who did not have to wait for their nuptials.

And once the couple got greenlit for a TV special for Channel 4, they decided to write a musical not just about their love story, but about the greater, universal significance of marriage equality for LGBTQ+ rights.

Taylor recalls the "magical moment" when the two registered their intention to marry, and the head registrar handed them a wall plaque that said "Marriage according to the law of this land is the union of one man and one woman."

"He said, 'I'm giving this to you because as of today, this is no longer true.' The wording that changed the day we got married -- to 'the union of two people' -- is now at everybody's weddings. And that brought home a sense of what equality actually is," Taylor said.

Among the songs the couple wrote for the ceremony was a particularly moving duet performed by their mothers, titled "Changing Expectations." The song was moving because it captured the complicated, gradual process of the mothers coming to accept their sons' sexualities, especially during the HIV/AIDS crisis.

"The way you gain support is through hearts and minds," Till said. "With this duet, we wanted to say, 'If you're feeling that (hesitancy) right now, it's okay.' Because there is a journey that you go on -- that these parents have been on as they celebrate their sons' marriage."

Photo taken on March 29, 2014, shows married couple Nathan Taylor (L) and Benjamin Till on their wedding day at Alexandra Palace, London. (Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Motola) (Kyodo)

It is this gentle, gradual approach to societal change that the couple believes is required for legalizing same-sex marriage.

Japan remains the only Group of Seven major industrial country that has not legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions, despite 70 percent of the population being in favor of the idea and mounting pressure from the LGBTQ+ community and their supporters to do so.

On March 14, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the current legal framework "cannot be reasonably justified in the light of fundamental equality." The same day, the Sapporo High Court ruled the government's same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional.

Japan's civil law and family registration law provisions are based on marriage between a man and a woman, and privileges resulting from matrimony, including inheritance rights, tax benefits and joint custody of children, are only granted to heterosexual couples.

Even with the most recent of six rulings thus far -- including five stating the current provisions are in "a state of unconstitutionality or unconstitutional" -- the prospect of Japan's Diet recognizing same-sex marriage remains elusive.

It was because of this situation that Kan decided to settle in Britain with his husband Tom, whom he would not have been able to marry in his native country.

Having gained a considerable social media presence from "Queer Eye," Kan, who asked that only his and his husband's first names be used, employs his platform to work towards "changing Japan" by showing what free self-expression as a queer person looks like.

In particular, he advocates for marriage equality in Japan, as the lack of legal recognition for same-sex couples like himself and Tom create many risks for settling there.

Not only would Tom not be allowed a spousal visa, but the couple's ability to buy or rent property or make hospital visits to each other would be far from guaranteed.

To bring about meaningful change, Kan collaborates with Japanese LGBTQ+ organizations like Marriage for All Japan and Tokyo Rainbow Pride; he also participated in a campaign for more letters to be written to the Diet advocating marriage equality.

"Ten years ago (in Japan), LGBTQ+ people were consumed as entertainment on TV. Now, our rights are a social issue thanks to previous generations of activists speaking up," Kan said. "Public opinion and institutions are changing, so the law should change too."

From Taylor and Till's perspective, marriage equality is just as much about quality of life and mental health as it is about equal rights under the law.

"My life is immeasurably improved because I can marry the man I love; even if we hadn't wanted to, the fact that we can is massive," Taylor said. "The fact that my relationship feels important and worthy of consideration -- that feeling of being taller -- is so powerful."

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