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Tokyo court backs rights for gays

TOKYO (Reuter) - A Japanese court, making the country's first gay rights ruling, found yesterday that Tokyo's education board had acted illegally when it barred a group of homosexuals from staying at a city hostel.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that discrimination against homosexuals was wrong and ordered the board to pay the plaintiffs 267,200 yen ( pounds 1,745) in compensation.

'Today's ruling clearly stated the rejection by the Tokyo government was illegal and the discrimination is unforgivable,' said Takashi Kazama, 26, one of the three plaintiffs and a member of Japan's only association for lesbians and gays, called Occur.

The municipal government had told the court that it barred a group of Occur members from staying at the young people's hostel in May 1990 for the same reason that it banned mixed-gender groups from staying overnight in the same room. The court ruled that such a ban deprived homosexuals of the right to use a public facility and violated the spirit of human rights enshrined in the constitution.

The ban followed an earlier stay by Occur members at the hostel in February 1990, when there was friction with other residents. After identifying themselves as homosexuals, the plaintiffs said, they were harassed, insulted and peeped at as they took a bath.

Occur, comprising about 300 male and female members, applied to stay at the hostel again three months later, only to be rebuffed by the Tokyo education board.