Japan’s main opposition party has submitted a bill calling for same-sex marriage to be legalised.
Chinami Nishimura, of the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), submitted the bill today (6 March), the South China Morning Post reported.
Japan, which is due to host the G7 summit meeting in May, is the only member of the influential intergovernmental political forum that does not recognise LGBTQ+ marriage.
Prime minister Fumio Kishida came under fire last week after claiming that not recognising same-sex unions “isn’t unfair discrimination by the state”.
Nishimura, the acting chief of the CDP, responded: “I think it’s discrimination if marriage is recognised legally for heterosexual couples but not same-sex couples.”
Kishida was also criticised last month after one of his aides reportedly made anti-LGBTQ+ comments, including that he “doesn’t even want to look at” married same-sex couples.
The aide was promptly fired, and Kishida called the remarks “outrageous” and “completely incompatible with the administration’s policies”.
The country’s constitution, which dates back to 1947 and which was written mainly by American officials following the occupation of Japan, states that “marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes”. However, recent polls have found that a majority of people in Japan support legalising equal marriage.
Currently, same-sex couples can only engage in civil unions – and even then, only in certain regions.
While civil partnerships allow couples to register for local government services, they cannot inherit assets or adopt.
PM Kishida has previously stated that the “issue needs to be carefully considered”.
Japanese-British pop singer Rina Sawayama gave a powerful message in support of legalising LGBTQ+ marriage last year.
During her performance at Japan’s Summer Sonic Festival, the singer-songwriter, said: “I’m bisexual, but if I try to have a same-sex marriage here, I can’t.
“It’s not allowed in Japan. Out of the G7 countries, it’s the only one that doesn’t have that protection.”
Sawayama, who came out as bi and pansexual in 2018, added: “This is something really embarrassing. Something that would accept me and my friends, my chosen family, a fair law… if you think we should [have equal marriage], please keep on fighting.
“LGBT people are human beings. LGBT people are Japanese. Love is love. Family is family. Let’s fight together.”
Taiwan is the only Asian country where same-sex marriage is permitted, after a new law was passed in 2019.