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Japan PM ex-aide's discriminatory remarks follow LDP's postponement of LGBTQ bill

Masayoshi Arai, former secretary to the prime minister, right, attends a press interview with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, at the prime minister's office on Feb. 3, 2023. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- In the wake of discriminatory remarks against sexual minorities by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's former secretary, the bill to promote better understanding of LGBTQ people, which was postponed for submission to the Diet in 2021 due to opposition from conservative members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is attracting attention.

    Like Kishida's ex-executive secretary Masayoshi Arai, some of those opposing the bill made discriminatory remarks at the time, including a House of Representative member who made a statement to the effect that sexual minorities "go against the preservation of the species in terms of biology."

    Kazuo Yana, appointed as the state minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, who is in charge of educational administration in the current Kishida administration, made the remark during an LDP meeting to discuss the bill in May 2021.

    The bill is a principle law with no penalties, and was put together by a multipartisan group of Diet members. Opinions were divided between the opposition parties demanding a bill that would "eliminate discrimination" and the LDP side wanting one that would "promote understanding," rather than prohibit discrimination. Both sides eventually agreed to add the phrase "discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will not be tolerated."

    Kazuo Yana is seen in Ohtawara, Tochigi Prefecture, on Oct. 15, 2021. (Mainichi/Seiichi Yuasa)

    Former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, who was a working member of the group, pushed to move the process within the LDP for the submission of the bill, but the debate became heated.

    Former National Public Safety Commission Chairperson Eriko Yamatani, who opposed the bill at the time, told reporters, "In the United States, issues concerning the use of school bathrooms have been brought up at various PTAs, and people with male bodies identifying themselves as female win medals by participating in female competitions. Given these absurdities, wouldn't there be various side effects if it grows into a social or political movement?" adding that "discussion is necessary."

    Some members continued to oppose even as the end of the Diet session approached, and the LDP ultimately decided not to submit the bill, saying that it would be difficult to deliberate it.

    It is believed that some lawmakers repeatedly make extreme remarks to appeal to conservative groups, such as the religious right, who are cautious about LGBTQ matters and legalizing same-sex marriage.

    In June 2022, a booklet claiming that "homosexuality is a mental disease or addiction" and containing other discriminatory portrayals of sexual minorities was distributed at a meeting of Diet members affiliated with the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership, to which many LDP lawmakers belong.

    Though the LDP has stated its intention to "sever relations," the political organization International Federation for Victory over Communism -- affiliated with the controversial Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, formerly known as the Unification Church -- is also opposed to the legislation of same-sex marriages.

    Tomomi Inada, second from left in the back, is seen speaking during a meeting to review the "LGBT understanding promotion bill" at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo on May 24, 2021. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

    The general incorporated association Japan Alliance for LGBT Legislation conducted a survey asking four candidates in the September 2021 LDP presidential election, including Kishida who later clinched the party leadership, whether they were for or against the bill.

    Kishida did not indicate his support or disapproval of the bill, but instead responded, "I understand the significance of the bill in promoting understanding of sexual minorities, and I will continue to work carefully to build a consensus within the party."

    Economic security minister Sanae Takaichi was the only one to respond she is "opposed" to the bill, and explained that "the definition of discrimination is vague, and there have been many concerns voiced, including by sexual minorities themselves."

    Amid growing criticism over former secretary Arai's remarks, the prime minister ordered preparations for the legislation of the bill on Feb. 6. LDP Secretary-General Toshimitsu Motegi said at a press conference, "Our party will continue to advance the preparations for the bill's submission," but there is no guarantee that discussions within the party will proceed smoothly.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Tanaka, Digital News Center)

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