South Korean court recognizes same-sex marriage status for first time
February 21, 2023 is a festive day for the LGBTQ+ community in South Korea as the country took a first step towards equal rights.
South Korean court recognizes legal status of same-sex spouses
For the first time, a South Korean supreme court has legally recognized same-sex couples. On Tuesday, February 21, the Seoul Supreme Court ruled that the federal health insurance system should offer spousal insurance to same-sex couples.
Lawyers and advocates hailed the ruling as the first legal recognition of same-sex partnerships in the country.
The landmark ruling overturns a lower court ruling that ruled that a same-sex relative is not eligible for National Health Insurance Service benefits available to other couples.
The sentencing couple also expressed their delight at the decision, saying they were “delighted”.
« This is not only our victory, but also a victory for many same-sex couples and LGBTQ families in Korea.” Said.
However, the National Health Insurance said it would appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.
Husband and wife So Sung-wook and Kim Yong-min have been embroiled in a lawsuit with the National Health Insurance since 2021. They had filed a lawsuit against the insurer after being denied spousal benefits.
A previous lower court decision ruled in favor of the insurer.
The decision was made on the grounds that a same-sex common law partnership cannot be considered a common law marriage. Yong-min and Sung-wook then appealed this decision.
According to her lawyer, Ryu Min-hee, the Court of Appeal said in its decision that the spousal insurance system under the state health insurance system is not limited to families as defined by the law.
The court also said denying rights in same-sex relationships was discrimination and protecting minority rights was the court’s “prime responsibility” as the “last bastion” of human rights.
Boram Jang, a researcher at Amnesty International, said the decision “is an important decision that brings South Korea closer to realizing marriage equality.” According to him, this adds a lot to the hope that prejudice against the LGBTQI+ community can be overcome.
Why is this decision important?
Korean advocacy group Gagoonet, which includes the law firm representing So and her partner, praised the couple in a statement and said they would welcome it “the first decision in which the judiciary recognized the equality of same-sex couples”.
Amnesty International also welcomed the decision, with its East Asia researcher Boram Jang saying: ” South Korea moves closer to marriage equality ” and ” gives hope that prejudice can be overcome”.
However, Jang added, the country still has a long way to go. For example, despite years of campaigning and multiple bills, it has no anti-discrimination law.
South Korea has also drawn international criticism for its Military Penal Code, which punishes sexual acts between men with up to two years in prison.
In recent years, dozens of people have been arrested in what critics have dubbed a “gay witch hunt”.