TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has dismissed one of his secretaries for homophobic comments that the prime minister called “outrageous”.
Kishida said the remarks by Masayoshi Arai, in which he said he “doesn’t even want to look at” married same-sex couples, were “outrageous” and “incompatible” with an inclusive society the government is aiming for.
“I made the decision to relieve him of his position as secretary,” Kishida told reporters on Saturday.
On Friday, Arai, an economy and trade official who joined Kishida’s staff as a secretary in October, said he “wouldn’t like it if they lived next door” and that people would “abandon the country if we allow same-sex marriage”, according to public broadcaster NHK.
The 55-year-old apologized later, saying his remarks were not appropriate, even if they were his personal opinion.
The dismissal is a further blow to Kishida’s government, which has faced plummeting approval ratings since last year.
Kishida has lost four ministers in just three months, including over allegations of financial irregularities or links to the controversial Unification Church.
Among those who stepped down was Mio Sugita, an internal affairs and communications vice minister, who quit in December over controversial comments about LGBTQ+ people and Japan’s Indigenous Ainu community.
Japan is the only nation in the Group of Seven industrialized countries not to recognize same-sex marriage, although recent media polls show a majority support such unions.
Arai’s comments had come after Kishida had said in parliament that same-sex marriage needed careful consideration because of its potential effect on the family structure.
More than a dozen couples have filed lawsuits in district courts across Japan arguing the ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
In November last year, a court in Japan’s capital upheld a ban on same-sex marriage but said a lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights.
Meanwhile, a court in Japan’s capital has upheld a ban on same-sex marriage but said a lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights.
Japan is the only G7 nation that does not allow same-sex marriage and its constitution defines marriage as based on the mutual consent of both sexes.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the Tokyo district court said the ban was constitutional but added that “the current lack of legal framework that allows same-sex partners to become family is a serious threat and obstacle” to individual dignity.
This creates an “unconstitutional situation”, the court said.
Nobuhito Sawasaki, one of the lawyers involved in the case, called the decision “a fairly positive ruling”.
“While marriage remains between a man and a woman, and the ruling supported that, it also said that the current situation with no legal protections for same-sex families is not good, and suggested something must be done about it,” he told the Reuters news agency.
Japan does not permit same-sex couples to marry or inherit each other’s assets, such as a shared home, and denies them parental rights to each other’s children – even hospital visits can be difficult. Though partnership certificates from municipalities cover about 60 percent of Japan’s population, they do not give same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)