Japan PM Kishida rebukes aide over same-sex couple outburst

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida puts his protective mask into his pocket as he prepares to deliver his policy speech during the first day of an ordinary session at the lower house of parliament in Tokyo, Japan on Jan 23, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters file

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday (Feb 4) rebuked one of his secretaries, who said he wouldn't want to live next to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender couples and warned that people would flee Japan if same-sex marriage was permitted.

In remarks reported by local media on Friday, Masayoshi Arai, a government bureaucrat who has worked for Kishida since October, added he did not even want to look at same-sex couples.

"His comments are outrageous and completely incompatible with the administration's policies," Kishida said in remarks aired by public broadcaster NHK.

Kisihida said he may dismiss Arai, who later apologised for "misleading" comments made after Kishida had said in parliament that same-sex marriage needed careful consideration because of its potential impact on the family structure.

Arai's comments are an embarrassment for Kishida as he prepares to host other leaders from Group of Seven nations in May.

Unlike Japan, which has been ruled by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for most of the past seven decades, the rest of the G7 allow marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.

It could also further erode his public support, which, according to recent opinion polls has halved to around 30 per cent since last year following a series of resignations by senior officials.

Those resignations included Mio Sugita, an internal affairs and communications vice minister, who quit in December over comments about LGBT people, and about Japan's indigenous Ainu community.

In a survey published by NHK in July 2021, two months before Kishida became prime minister, 57 per cent of 1,508 respondents said they supported the legal recognition of same-sex unions.

Because they are not allowed to marry, same-sex couples can't inherit each other's assets and are denied parental rights to each other's children.

In November, a Tokyo court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage, but also said a lack of legal protection for same-sex families violated their human rights.

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