Japan: The Conservative Politician Fighting for Gay Rights

Tomomi Inada isn’t trying to get Japan to legalize same-sex marriage, or ban discrimination against gay citizens. The conservative lawmaker just wants to “promote understanding” of LGBT issues. Even that seems too much.

The former defense minister said she’s unsure she’ll be able to introduce new legislation seeking greater tolerance of same-sex relationships amid opposition from her Liberal Democratic Party colleagues. Members of the ruling party have publicly opposed calls for change in recent months, some warning it would slow the already anemic birth rate.

“People asked me if I’d turned left wing,” said Inada, an LDP executive and an adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “It’s a tough situation for me, but I think it’s a human rights issue and nothing to do with being conservative or liberal.”

While other developed countries, including the U.S., Australia and most of western Europe have moved to recognize same-sex marriage, traditionalist Japan has barely budged. Now, business groups are cautioning that the country’s LGBT policies are hurting their hunt for top global talent, and activists argue the situation could become a source of embarrassment when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.

A group of 13 same-sex couples filed suit Thursday -- Valentine’s Day -- over what they contend is marriage discrimination in Japan. The government’s top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, signaled little interest in change.

“Whether or not we recognize same-sex marriage is a problem that relates to the roots of what a family should be in our country,” Suga told parliament. “So it’s something that needs to be considered extremely cautiously.” Read more via Bloomberg