Japan’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that a law requiring married couples to have the same last name was constitutional, rejecting plaintiffs seeking the right to keep last names separate, local media said.
The plaintiffs – three couples – submitted marriage registration documents with different last names for wives and husbands in 2018. But city governments refused to accept the documents, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported.
The plaintiffs argued that requiring married couples to choose only one name “is contrary to equality under the law and freedom of marriage, which are guaranteed by the constitution.”
The decision is in line with a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that also ruled the law constitutional but urged lawmakers to discuss a bill responding to growing calls for flexibility on the issue.
Calls to allow separate surnames have increased in recent years. The couples argued that “the reasons for the 2015 verdict are no longer valid given the changes in society,” Jiji Press said.
Supreme Court officials could not immediately confirm details of Wednesday’s verdict, which was widely reported by local media.
Under current legislation, couples can choose to adopt the husband’s or wife’s last name when they get married. But in practice, the vast majority of couples opt for the husband’s name.
The family name rule has been in place since the end of the 19th century as part of a family system bringing together members under the same head of the family, usually a man.
Proponents say having just one last name is important in promoting family ties, and view efforts to change the rules as an attack on traditional values.
© 2021 AFP