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South Korean court recognises legal status of same-sex couples for first time

2023-2-22 21:36| Posted by: blueanjle| View: 98| Comment: 0|Come from: The guadian

Summary: Support usThe Guardian - Back to homeThe Guardian: news website of the yearNewsOpinionSportCultureLifestyleShow captionSouth KoreaSouth Korean court recognises legal status of same-sex couples for fir ...
So-Sung-uk and Kim Yong-min celebrate after a court rules same-sex couples are entitled to the same coverage from the national health insurance program as heterosexual couples.
South Korea

South Korean court recognises legal status of same-sex couples for first time

Seoul high court rules gay couple allowed same health insurance rights as heterosexual couple in landmark case

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

A court in South Korea has ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same spousal coverage under the national health insurance service as heterosexual couples – the first time the country has recognised the legal status of a gay partner.

Tuesday’s landmark decision by the Seoul high court overturned a previous ruling by a lower court in January 2022 that rejected a gay couple’s petition after one partner was told he had to make separate health insurance payments.

Under South Korean law, a dependent is exempt from making health insurance payments if their spouse meets certain employment conditions. The lower court threw out the petition because it did not recognise the partners as spouses.

More than 30 countries, including Taiwan, have legalised same-sex marriage, but it is still illegal in South Korea and Japan, where pressure is building for a change to the law before the country hosts the G7 summit in May.

A Seoul high court judge said in a brief statement that the lower court ruling had been overturned and insurance contributions imposed on one of the spouses revoked, adding that the insurance service would have to pay costs for both sides in the case, the Korea Herald reported.

The ruling was the court’s “first recognition of the legal status of a same-sex couple”, said Park Han-hee, a lawyer who represented the plaintiff, according to the Yonhap news agency.

The decision was welcomed by the couple who launched the legal petition, So Sung-uk and Kim Yong-min.

Kim said: “It took us such a long time to have our marriage status recognised within the legal framework.”

The couple held a wedding ceremony in 2019 but were unable to register their marriage because South Korean authorities do not recognise their union as legal.

Kim was registered as a spousal dependent as part of So’s insurance scheme in early 2020, according to reports, but the insurance service later ordered Kim to pay retrospective contributions since the couple were not legally married.

The high court, however, ruled spousal coverage under the state health insurance scheme was not limited to legally defined families, and that denying that right to same-sex couples was discriminatory, Yonhap said.

Protecting the rights of minorities is the “biggest responsibility” of the court as the “last bastion” of human rights, the court added.

Campaigners described the ruling as “significant”.

“By not recognising partners in same-sex relationships, the national health insurance service was discriminating against same-sex couples, denying basic rights afforded to couples of the opposite sex. Today’s ruling will help to rectify this wrong.

“This ruling is significant as the first decision legally recognising same-sex couples to be made by a court at any level in South Korea, but much more needs to be done to end discrimination against, and criminalisation of, the LGBTQ+ community.”



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