Japan LGBTQ groups urge government to guarantee equality

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese LGBTQ activist groups delivered a statement to the government on Friday urging that Japan enact an anti-discrimination law and legalize same-sex marriages ahead of a summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations being hosted by Japan in May.

Japan is the only G-7 country that does not recognize same-sex marriage or provide other equal rights protections for LGBTQ people.

Calls for an enactment of an anti-discrimination law and other legal protections have increased since an aide to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida remarked in February that he wouldn’t want to live next to LGBTQ people and that citizens would flee Japan if same-sex marriage were allowed.

The remarks triggered public outrage, and Kishida’s governing Liberal Democratic Party has begun preparing legislation that would promote awareness of LGBTQ rights but not mandate them. Some conservatives have shown resistance to the proposed bill and progress is uncertain.

Activists see the upcoming G-7 summit as a chance to push their cause, which they hope to have included in the leaders’ joint statement.

Three groups spearheading the drive organized a conference in March at which they formulated a statement that they submitted Friday to Masako Mori, the government’s special adviser in charge of promoting LGBTQ awareness. It urges the government to enact legislation prohibiting discrimination against sexual minorities, instead of merely promoting awareness of the issue.

“Enactment of awareness promotion is far from the global standard. Even an anti-discrimination law is just a first step,” said Yuichi Kamiya, executive director of the Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation.

After meeting with Mori on Friday, the activists said she showed understanding and promised to give the statement to Kishida.

Activists say Japan’s conservative government has stonewalled the push for equal rights, which they say is supported by the general public. Support for LGBTQ people has slowly increased in Japan, while recent surveys show that most Japanese back legalizing same-sex marriage.

In a statement Friday, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan said, “Japan’s lack of LGBTQ+ protections makes it a less attractive option for some of the best talent in the world in an era when companies operating in Japan cannot afford to lose talent to their global competitors.”

It urged Japan to “bring its protection of LGBTQ+ rights in line with the standards of other G-7 nations to help bolster Japan’s ability to attract global talent and further Japan’s economic potential.”

On Thursday, Kishida told a group of journalists from G-7 member countries, including The Associated Press, that Japan promotes policies to achieve an inclusive and diverse society, but that whether to allow same-sex marriage requires careful consideration.

“An introduction of same-sex marriage is an issue that affects the foundation of the people’s lives and family values of each individual. I consider this an issue that broadly affects all nationals,” Kishida said. “It is important to take into consideration views among all levels of the public, legal actions related to same-sex marriage, and the extent of (alternative) partnership systems on municipal levels.”

Kishida said he hoped to deepen discussion of the issue in parliament, and added that each country has different backgrounds and issues to consider.