Taiga Ishikawa made history on July 21 when he became the first openly gay male lawmaker in the country’s history.
At 45 years old Ishikawa, of the Constitutional Democratic Party, was elected to a seat in the upper house (House of Councillors). Part of the platform he ran on included his vocal support for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Ishikawa promises historic progress in this area during his term and stated to the Thomas Reuters foundation, “Since the early 2000s, the issue of same-sex marriage has progressed leaps and bounds. It will happen within the six years of my term, I am sure.” He went on to say, “It has been incredibly empowering to the Japanese LGBT community to see the growing acceptance overseas of same-sex marriage. I think we’ve got a breakthough now and I plan to the move the conversation (on same-sex marriage) forward.”
Part of that growing acceptance includes Taiwan which became the first government in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in May. Although strong political opposition to same-sex marriage exists, and is supported by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a recent poll reports that 78% percent of Japanese people ages 20-60 are in support of same-sex marriage legalization. This majority support from citizens not only contributes to the safety and well-being of LGBTQ Japanese people but will also surely help build the support needed for same-sex marriage legislation.
Kanako Otsuji became Japan’s first lesbian lawmaker in 2013. She participated in bringing a same-sex marriage bill forward last June, but the Liberal Democratic Party (the ruling party in Japan) chose against debating it at that time. In an interview in April Otsuji said on the subject, “Politicians won’t ignore public opinion. In Japanese society, those who don’t follow the prescribed path often find themselves at a dead end. If we change our social institutions to allow diverse lifestyles, however, we can make society better for everyone.”
What other countries have legalized same-sex marriage or decriminalized same-sex relationships this year? What country do you think could be next?