Fighting for the right to recognize same-sex marriage in Japan

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06/27/2020

Ikuo Sato knows he will be in trouble if he becomes infected with COVID-19. “I’m over 60, I’ve got diabetes, I’m HIV-positive and I’m on artificial dialysis,” says the 61-year-old, who works for a nonprofit organization that supports HIV-positive people in Japan. “I began feeling very uncomfortable when the number of cases in Tokyo started rising, but I still had to go to the office every day because I couldn’t work from home.” Sato has another reason for wanting to avoid the virus. For the past 16 years, he has lived with his same-sex partner, Yoshi. Sato’s two younger sisters know about the relationship and are understanding, but Yoshi — who spoke on condition that his surname would not be published because he has yet to publicly come out — is estranged from his own family. Sato knows that, were he to die from COVID-19, his sisters would support Yoshi. Were the same thing to happen to Yoshi, on the other hand, the fact that Japan does not recognize same-sex marriage means Sato probably wouldn’t even be invited to attend his funeral.

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