It's a fascinating decision because it doesn't allow gays to marry in Japan, but it does allow those citizens who legally marry foreigners abroad to have their marriages recognized in domestic law:

For Japanese nationals, whether they are gay or not, to marry foreigners in foreign countries, they must obtain certificates from the ministry by submitting documents including their name, birth data, sex and nationality, and similar information about their marriage partner.

Under the latest decision, the ministry will issue a new type of certificate which will only clarify that the person has reached the legal age for marriage and that he or she is single. "We were not able to get (the ministry) to forgo the clarification of sexuality. But I want to hail the Justice Ministry's decision as a step forward (for gays)," said Taiga Ishikawa, who represents gay support group Peer Friends.

Ishikawa said that Japanese gays were not able to get married to a gay foreigner even if their marriage partner's country approved of same- sex marriage, because the Justice Ministry would not issue the certificate. "And without marriage they were unable to obtain visas for their partners to live together," Ishikawa said.

No such right is extended to gay Americans. Increasingly, the world recognizes the human plight of legitimate married couples forced to choose between family and country. Just not America, where gay couples have no rights under federal law at all.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.