Japan ruling party to submit LGBTQ Bill after former PM aide’s comments against same-sex couples

The proposed law does not allow for marriage equality, and that same-sex unions should be considered with “extreme caution”. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO – Japan’s ruling party will prepare to submit a Bill encouraging understanding of issues concerning the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community, seeking to repair the damage from discriminatory comments made by a former aide to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) wants to work to create an inclusive society that respects diversity,” party Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters on Monday. “We want to encourage understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity.” 

On Saturday, Mr Kishida fired a secretary who had told reporters in an off-record briefing he did not like to see same-sex couples and would not want to live next door to them. The Premier said the comments were “completely contrary to government policy”.

His aide’s comments had shocked many, just as Japan prepares to host a summit of the Group of Seven advanced democracies in May as the only member that does not allow same-sex unions.

They could also prove a blow to Mr Kishida’s already low standing in opinion polls following a series of Cabinet scandals. 

A Bill aimed at encouraging understanding and preventing discrimination was drawn up by a cross-party group in 2021, but never submitted to Parliament because of opposition from within the conservative LDP.

The proposed law does not allow for marriage equality, and Mr Kishida reiterated in Parliament last week that same-sex unions should be considered with “extreme caution”.

Campaigners say the lack of a legal marriage framework causes difficulties over issues from immigration to inheritance and medical care, while business groups say it can hamper global recruitment. 

The LDP’s stance clashes with the views of the public. A survey carried out by the Mainichi newspaper and Saitama University from November 2021 to January 2022 found a majority in all age groups surveyed except those 70 and older said same-sex marriage should be recognised. 

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. BLOOMBERG

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