Japan’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a transgender man who wanted to be legally recognized as the father of his child, who was conceived by his wife after they married.
The court’s decision also set a precedent, meaning that a child born to the legal wife of a transgender husband will no longer automatically be registered as illegitimate.
Previously, the Justice Ministry had ruled that because a same-sex couple cannot have children without the help of a third party, any children thereof could not be considered born into wedlock. Families in which one half of the couple was transgender had to adopt their children to ensure rights such as inheritance.
The man, whose identity has not been revealed, married his wife in 2008, one month after his transition was complete and he was legally recognized as male. In November 2009, his wife gave birth to their child, a son, who was conceived using sperm from the man’s brother.
However, when the man tried to list the child in his family’s register, the officials in Hyogo Prefecture told him it would not be possible and the infant could only be registered as illegitimate. (As of October 2013, Akashi is the only city in Japan that doesn’t ask if a child was born out of wedlock on its birth registration forms.)
Lower courts had denied the man’s application to be recognized as his child’s legal parent, stating that the circumstances of the child’s conception were irrelevant; those decisions were overturned. One case the Supreme Court did take into consideration was a 2004 law allowing individuals to have their gender legally changed after certain requirements are met, including gender confirmation surgery.
According to Japan Times, the court said in its ruling, “The child can be assumed as the husband’s child even though it is obvious that there is no biological link…It is wrong not to certify a father-child relationship on grounds that they are not blood-related, as the law allows a husband who cannot expect to have a child with his wife to marry.”
Out of the five justices that heard the case, three agreed with the court’s decision; the other two opposed it.
The newly recognized father said in an interview with Agence-France Press, “I am very happy. I can finally become the father of my son in legal documents. We won at the final stage, thanks to the help and support of many others.”