For the first time, a South Korean court on Tuesday recognized the rights of a same-sex couple in a landmark decision hailed by activists as a significant victory for LGBT+ rights.
The case, which will now go to the Supreme Court, was initiated by So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, two men who married in 2019 in a ceremony that had no legal validity in the country. under South Korean law, which does not recognize same-sex marriages.
In 2021, Mr So sued the country’s public health insurance service, the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), after benefits to his registered partner, who was registered as a dependent, were cut off after the NHIS discovered that MM. So and Kim were a same-sex couple.
A lower court ruled in favor of the NHIS in 2022.
But, in a major reversal, the Seoul High Court overturned that decision on Tuesday, ordering the health insurance department to restore Mr Kim’s benefits.
“Today our rights are recognized within the legal system,” Kim said after the hearing, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. “This represents a victory for anyone who wants equality for same-sex couples.”
The court did not provide detailed reasons for its decision.
The NHIS told AFP it would appeal.
“This judgment is important because it is the first decision, taken by a court of any level in South Korea, which legally recognizes same-sex couples,” observed Jang Boram of Amnesty International in a communicated.
If South Korea still has a “long way (to go) to put an end to discrimination (…) this decision gives hope that prejudices can be overcome”, declared Jang Boram.
Seoul does not criminalize same-sex relationships, but marriages are not recognized and many LGBT+ people tend to live under the radar. Activists have long insisted on the need for a law against discrimination based on sexual orientation, but no text has yet reached a consensus among South Korean parliamentarians.