- Title: Activists hope for change after Japan PM contender supports same-sex marriage
- Date: 27th September 2021
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (FILE - MAY 8, 2016) (REUTERS) PARTICIPANTS ON TRUCK WAVING RAINBOW AND JAPANESE FLAGS VARIOUS OF PARTICIPANTS MARCHING ALONG STREET
- Embargoed: 11th October 2021 11:55
- Keywords: Japan LGBTQ Liberal Democratic Party Taro Kono activist candidates same-sex marriage the ruling party leadership election
- Location: TOKYO, JAPAN
- City: TOKYO, JAPAN
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Asia / Pacific,Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA005EWMT8W7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: LGBTQ rights activists are hoping that Japan may finally allow same-sex marriage if Taro Kono, who has publicly supported gay marriage, becomes the country's next prime minister, but change will not come easily.
Kono is seen as the leading contender to win the ruling party's leadership vote on Wednesday (September 29) and become premier.
Of the four candidates for the Liberal Democratic Party leadership, Kono and Seiko Noda have supported gay marriage. Same-sex marriage is only legal in Taiwan in Asia.
The fact that same-sex marriage, long seen as a cultural flashpoint among conservatives in Japan, is even being discussed in the leadership race shows how much wider acceptance the issue has garnered among lawmakers and the public, activists said.
"Mr. Kono has said in the past that he's in favor of same-sex marriage, but the fact that he repeated his support for it during leadership election of the ruling party which draws attention from the world, has a huge significance in terms of recognizing the same-sex marriage in Japan," said Kazuhiro Terada, an LGBTQ rights activist in Tokyo.
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Japan, but there has been a gradual move to broader acceptance of gay couples.
"This shows the extent that (the LGBTQ rights movement) has indeed moved forward. I don't think same-sex marriage has ever been raised as an issue or reported in previous leadership races. It has never been pondered, not just by the candidates but also by the general public," said Makiko Terahara, a lawyer who heads an organisation that campaigns for same-sex marriage.
Since Shibuya ward in Tokyo became the first municipality to issue certificates recognising same-sex partners in 2015, some 100 local governments have followed suit to cover over a third of the country's population. Such certificates recognise same-sex couples but provide limited legal rights.
A March poll by the Asahi newspaper found that 65% supported gay marriage, while 22% opposed it. But despite the public support, political change will be a different matter, advocates say.
Kono has also come out in support of separate surnames for married couples and allowing heirs of female lineage to succeed the imperial throne. The timing and careful wording of his statement suggests it was a strategic move to capture support among more progressive party members, experts say.
(Production: Irene Wang)
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