We — Elin McCready and Midori Morita — have been married for 20 years, originally filing paperwork in Japan, where we live. Elin filed a petition to change her name and gender in the US in October 2018 and changed this information on her passport. However, Japan has refused to recognize her gender transition on some documents, because doing so would result in de facto acceptance of same-sex marriage, which Japan doesn’t currently allow. This means that some of Elin’s paperwork says M and some F, even just within Japan, which is as far as we know a unique situation, and our marital status is ultimately unclear.
We are crowdfunding for a lawsuit to sue the Japanese government and get this situation fixed. The goals are (1) to fight for recognition of Elin’s transition and get all her paperwork consistent with her gender, and (2) to ensure that they recognize our marriage in the process. This will result in the Japanese government admitting a same-sex marriage, which will be a big step toward full legal status of same-sex marriage, and possibly even become the legal challenge which forces the government to make marriage possible for everyone. Please help us fix our situation and by doing so help us make things better for everyone here!
Details and Timeline.
Here are some details of how this situation has progressed.
We married on February 29, 2000, making it almost 20 years as of this writing. We have three children: Kai (18), Colin (17) and Tyler (10), and all live together in Tokyo, where Elin teaches linguistics and philosophy at a university.
In October of 2018, Elin filed a petition in the US to change her name and gender, and immediately changed her passport. As Japanese law requires, she took her new passport down to the immigration office to get an updated residence card, which was simple and easy. The next step in the process is to take the updated card to the local government office (in this case, Meguro Ward Office) and update the local registry information there with the information on the new card. This is the point where problems arose, because we are married.
Our case is the first of its kind in Japan, as far as we know. People with Japanese nationality cannot change their official gender if they are married as a matter of Japanese law, perhaps because Japan doesn’t currently allow same-sex marriage and doesn’t want to allow existing marriages to transform into same-sex ones. This means that no existing marriage between Japanese single-passport holders could become a same-sex marriage as ours has. But since Elin is not Japanese, she was able to change her passport and thus present a dilemma for the Japanese government.
Local registries include information about marital and family status, so updating Elin’s gender on the registry would make our marriage into an officially same-sex one. This would be the first officially recognized same-sex marriage in the country. Local officials were reluctant to make that decision. The alternative was to remove our marriage from the record, but it’s not clear that doing so would be legal, and we were ready to fight this move, though it was suggested to us repeatedly. Ultimately the local government asked us to wait while they checked with the Tokyo city government; they were also reluctant and kicked the issue upstairs to the Ministry of Justice, where the question of what to do sat in committee with no information about what was happening provided to us, until journalists took an interest in the case and made direct inquiries (see linked articles and media below).
The situation changed in June 2019, when we moved from Meguro to Shinagawa Wards: this move required us to submit paperwork to the new ward with our personal information on it in order to make a new registry there. Meguro consulted with the national government about how to produce the form for Elin — in what name, with what gender — and were told to update the name only but leave the gender as M, which presumably was meant to not decide the marriage issue until the national government made its decision, or so we thought. However, it turns out that this is the final decision of the government, not a temporary one at all.
The current situation then is that some of Elin’s paperwork has her as female and some as male, and it is the position of the Japanese government that this situation should stand, leaving her officially multigendered. This is a problem for many reasons: first, she is not multigendered; second, the official status of many things becomes unclear — are we officially married in the eyes of the Japanese government at all? what about inheritance, access to hospital visits, and other things that depend on marital status? what about access to same-sex facilities such as bathrooms, medical treatment, and other things that depend on gender assignment? More than that, the situation is just bizarre and unreasonable as the government’s official position.
We intend to sue the government to get this situation clarified with full recognition of both Elin’s gender and our marriage.
We have consulted with a lawyer, who says that this obviously bizarre situation means that we have a good chance of winning a lawsuit. We plan to sue the government and request that they update Elin’s gender on all documents, and, with that, set a precedent for same-sex marriage.
However, we don’t really have the money to fund this lawsuit, which will cost approximately $7000USD to start with more need for funds thereafter depending how long the case takes. We hope to file the lawsuit before the Olympics in order to put maximum pressure on the Japanese government and lawmakers.
Please help us with whatever donation you can, to fix our personal situation, to help establish a precedent and maybe full legality for same-sex marriage in Japan, and hopefully also to make the Japanese government generally reconsider their stance on LGBTQ+ issues!!!
We are first trying to raise the initial legal fee for filing the lawsuit: USD$7000. Once we have that in hand, we will file.
Subsequent legal fees depend on the progress of the lawsuit and aren’t clear yet, but we expect that they will be roughly double the amount needed for the initial filing. Any money we raise over that, or which is left over, we will donate to LGBTQ+ organizations in Japan, or use for other nonprofit events ourselves (we will do the same with any donations if we fail to make our initial filing goal at all). For example, we are currently running a series of events under the name WAIFU centered around making safe spaces for queer femmes and trans people, which have been lacking in Japan up to now (see below for articles and media).
Costs: USD7000 (initial filing)
USD14000 (subsequent legal fees)
We made our initial crowdfunding goal thanks to everyone, and have contracted a team of lawyers. We have a legal strategy and we think we have a good chance of winning our lawsuit.
The legal team has requested documents relating to our requests for Meguro Ward, Shinagawa Ward, and the Immigration Bureau to recognize Elin’s gender transition. All of these initially refused to release any documents to us, and indeed, in the case of Shinagawa, denied that they had ever even heard of our case. The lawyers filed a further request, which has also been refused.
Since Shinagawa Ward denies ever even being asked to recognize Elin’s gender, the lawyers are filing an official legal request that they do so. We don’t expect a good result here. If and when they refuse, the lawyers will make final preparations for filing.
About marriage situation, as of February 2019: