Japan PM Kishida rebuffs calls to recognise same-sex marriage ahead of G-7 summit

A recent survey found 71 per cent of respondents aged 18-29 said same-sex marriage should be legally recognised. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO – Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said “extreme caution” was needed in allowing same-sex marriage, blocking calls in Parliament to give legal status to the unions that would bring Japan in line with Group of Seven (G-7) peers as it prepares to host a summit in May.

“Changing the system will deeply involve all the people of Japan,” Mr Kishida told a parliamentary committee in response to questions from opposition Constitutional Democratic Party deputy leader Chinami Nishimura.

“Their view of the family, their values and the disruption to society – it’s that kind of problem,” he added in a Wednesday session. 

Japan is alone among the G-7 major democracies in not having a legal system for same-sex unions, something campaigners say causes problems in areas from immigration to inheritance and medical treatment. Business groups have also said the lack of such provisions puts them at a disadvantage in competing for global talent. 

Mr Kishida’s long-ruling and conservative Liberal Democratic Party tends to boast stronger support among older voters, who polling shows have been slower than younger Japanese to embrace lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

A survey carried out by the Mainichi newspaper and Saitama University from November 2021 to January 2022 found 71 per cent of respondents aged 18-29 said same-sex marriage should be legally recognised. The number fell to 25 per cent of those aged 70 or above.

Local governments, including Tokyo, have sought to provide support by offering partnership registration systems, though these do not carry legal weight and still leave couples facing problems with lack of recognition of their relationship. 

Marriage equality groups are also pursuing a series of cases through Japan’s courts, claiming damages arising from the lack of rights for same-sex couples. Results so far have been mixed, and a verdict is due in a Nagoya case on May 30. 

“The foundation of the family is the love and trust that comes from walking through life, laughing, crying and worrying together,” activist group Marriage For All Japan said in a tweet responding to Mr Kishida’s remarks. “If people of the same sex could get married, that wouldn’t change at all.” BLOOMBERG

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