A Japanese court for the first time has struck down as unconstitutional the nation's ban on same-sex marriage.

The Sapporo District Court issued its ruling on Wednesday.

Gay and lesbian couples cannot legally marry under current Japanese law. In 2019, three couples filed a lawsuit after they were unable to register their marriages.

The court ruled against the government, saying that it had violated the couples' right to equal treatment under Japan's constitution. The court also rejected the government's claim that the constitution denies the right of marriage to same-sex couples. While Article 24 uses the term “husband and wife” to describe marriage, it does not expressly prohibit gay couples from marrying, the court found.

Japan does not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed abroad.

At least four other cases are working their way through the courts, according to press reports. The government said it would be carefully watching the outcomes in these cases.