NAGOYA -- Noboru Watanabe, an Aichi Prefectural Assembly member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), wrote a comment saying he is "very much against such a disgusting thing as same-sex marriage" in response to a social media post about the overwhelming approval of same-sex marriage in a referendum in Cuba.
Watanabe on Sept. 27 wrote the discriminatory comment on a Facebook post by Naho Ida, executive director of the Selective Separate Spousal Surname National Petition Action citizens group seeking gender equality, and has since been deleted. In an interview on Oct. 3, the 53-year-old assemblyman commented, "I regret posting such a comment."
Ida called his initial response "an unforgivable discriminatory remark that seriously offended the human rights and dignity of many sexual minorities." Members of the citizens group and others visited the Aichi Prefectural Assembly on Oct. 4 and handed over a letter of protest. Watanabe apologized, saying, "I promise that from now on I will not make such a statement on any forum. I am truly sorry for what I said."
The letter was submitted by those including Ida and members of sexual minorities including the LGBTQ community. Upon receiving the letter, Watanabe stated, "I deeply regret what I said. I made those remarks due to my lack of knowledge," and repeatedly bowed his head.
Ariel Ling-chun Liu, a special researcher at Osaka City University Research Center for Human Rights and a resident of the Aichi Prefecture city of Takahama who is gay, explained, "Watanabe went out of his way to approach a person posting on social media who has different views from his own, and then repeatedly made discriminatory comments. It's extremely malicious and deliberate."
Upon learning about Watanabe's recent comment, the 37-year-old Liu launched an online petition demanding an apology and measures to prevent a recurrence from the prefectural assembly, the LDP headquarters and the Federation of Aichi Prefecture Liberal Democratic Party Branches.
Liu said, "It's not a matter of offending the individuals concerned, but rather an infringement of people's personal rights. The reason why Aichi Prefecture, despite being an urban area, has not progressed in terms of awareness and measures concerning sexual minorities is probably because of this kind of discourse by politicians."
Watanabe was first elected in 2007 and is currently serving his fourth term.
(Japanese original by Shiho Sakai and Atsuko Ota, Nagoya News Center)