The ban, which he imposedi Japan on same-sex marriagesis unconstitutional, the appellate court of the northern Japanese district of Sapporo ruled today, in the first appeals court ruling on an issue that has divided the lower levels of the judicial system.

While Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven (G7) most developed industrialized nations that does not provide legal protection to same-sex unions, the decision of the Sapporo High Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim for damages from the government.

“I thought the decision would be conservative, but it ended up exceeding my expectations,” one of the plaintiffs, who did not want to be named, told reporters after the decision was announced. “I couldn’t stop my tears.”

The debate over whether Japan’s anti-same-sex marriage laws are unconstitutional has divided lower courts, with one district court finding it constitutional but others arguing it is unconstitutional to varying degrees.

Although polls from 2023 show that about 70% of citizens support same-sex marriage, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party opposes him.