TOKYO -- The opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) has solidified plans to submit to the ordinary session of the Diet next year revisions to the Civil Code and other related laws to provide same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexual unions.
The CDP has already decided to support sexual minority candidates in the House of Councillors elections next summer, and the party hopes to further carve out its support base with the planned political move.
The Japanese government does not recognize same-sex marriage on the basis of a Family Registry Act provision that "a family register shall be created for each unit consisting of a husband and wife, and any children thereof with the same surname," and other related laws. However, there are many constitutional scholars who point out that Article 24 of the Constitution, which states that "marriage shall be based on the mutual consent of both sexes," does not prohibit the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The CDP has two options for recognizing same-sex marriage in the "marriage" section of the Civil Code, or creating a new "partnership system" that extends the same rights as married couples to same-sex common law marriages. The party intends to finalize its revision plan within the next ordinary session of the Diet.
If legalization is realized, the legal status of same-sex couples in areas such as medical insurance, bereaved family pension and inheritance will rise dramatically. CDP project team leader and lower house lawmaker Chinami Nishimura said, "It's important to create diverse choices."
For the upper house elections, the party plans to back Taiga Ishikawa, 44, an openly gay member of the Toshima Ward Assembly in Tokyo, as its candidate in the proportional representation bloc, and Hiroko Masuhara, 41, the partner of economic analyst Kazuyo Katsuma, as a candidate for the Kyoto prefectural single-seat constituency. The CDP is looking to nominate two additional LGBT candidates.
"We would like to support diverse candidates as the faces that personify our policies," said CDP Diet affairs committee chief Akira Nagatsuma.
Concerning the rights and position of sexual minorities in Japanese society, ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lower house lawmaker Mio Sugita submitted an article to a monthly magazine that claimed that the LGBT community was "not productive," among other charges, leading to widespread public outrage. Following this incident, five opposition parties including the CDP, along with upper house independents, submitted a bill to the last extraordinary session of the Diet for the elimination of discrimination targeting sexual minorities.
Meanwhile, the LDP plans to submit a bill promoting the understanding of the LGBT community to the next regular session of the Diet. The move by the CDP aims to go even further than the LDP bill, but faces a difficult road toward realization.
(Japanese original by Hiroshi Odanaka, Political News Department)