Japan opposition parties submit same-sex marriage Bill

Activists have argued that if there is no progress on same-sex marriage, it could become a source of embarrassment when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Activists have argued that if there is no progress on same-sex marriage, it could become a source of embarrassment when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japan's major opposition parties submitted a Bill on Monday (June 3) calling for same-sex marriage in the world's third-biggest economy, a move that comes weeks after Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalise gay marriage.

The Bill is unlikely to go far in Parliament, where the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has barely budged to advance civil rights for LGBT people - even though business leaders have demanded change, saying current policies are hurting their ability to attract top global talent.

The Bill from the Constitutional Democratic Party, Japanese Communist Party and others states that marriage will be established on the basis of marriage equality.

Neutral language will be adopted with the terms "party of marriage" used in place of "husband" and "wife", while "father and mother" will be replaced by "parent".

One problem faced by any possible law is Article 24 of the Japanese Constitution. It states: "Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis."

Supporters have said this article is directed towards family registries and does not affect same-sex marriage while opponents have said a constitutional change would be needed to allow same-sex unions.

Activists have argued that if there is no progress on same-sex marriage, it could become a source of embarrassment when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics. They have also brought challenges at court seeking change.

 

The Japanese public appears more tolerant than the LDP, which has controlled the government for all but four years since 1955.

Homosexual relationships were long condoned among the samurai class and Buddhist monks before Japan's mid-19th century modernisation and adoption of "Western" values.

Same-sex couples in Taiwan celebrated their first gay marriages in late May, with the government enacting the law despite strong public opposition to gay marriage.