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Japanese politician, Taiwanese partner call on Japan to legalize same-sex marriage

Taiwan became 1st in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019

Japanese assemblyman Masahiro Shibaguchi, left, with his Taiwanese husband, Liu Ling-chun, after registering their marriage in Taiwan. (CNA photo)

Japanese assemblyman Masahiro Shibaguchi, left, with his Taiwanese husband, Liu Ling-chun, after registering their marriage in Taiwan. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Japanese politician and his Taiwanese partner traveled to Taiwan to register their same-sex marriage on Aug. 11 and called on the Japanese government to legalize same-sex marriage.

Japanese assembly member Masahiro Shibaguchi, 53, of the Japanese Communist Party, and his Taiwanese spouse, Ariel Ling-chun Liu (劉靈均), 38, an adjunct professor, both live and work in Japan. However, in Asia, only Taiwan has legalized same-sex marriage, so the couple traveled to Taipei to register their union, per SCMP.

In 2019, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. In January, it went a step further to recognize unions between Taiwanese citizens and their foreign partners, even if they come from countries where same-sex marriage is banned.

In May, Taiwan also legalized same-sex adoption, permitting same-sex couples to adopt children with the same rights under the Civil Code.

Despite pressure from other nations, Japan remains the only country in the Group of Seven (G7) that does not allow same-sex marriage. Japanese same-sex couples have filed lawsuits in the country, and several district courts have raised concerns over the constitutionality of the ban on same-sex marriage.

In June, the Japanese Diet passed its first-ever law meant to promote “understanding” of the LGBTQ+ community, but it provides no human rights guarantees. In addition, the final version was reportedly “watered-down,” as the original version stipulated that sexual or gender discrimination should "not be tolerated,” then was modified to read, "there should be no unfair discrimination,” which activists say may condone some forms of discrimination.

In Japan, support for same-sex marriage is steadily increasing. According to an Asahi Shimbun opinion poll taken in February, 72% of the Japanese public supports the legalization of same-sex marriage, compared with 18% who oppose such a change.

However, members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) continue to resist same-sex marriage, arguing about the need to uphold traditional family values. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio also remains cautious and noncommittal about the issue.

Speaking in a phone interview, Liu expressed, "This is very unfair, as heterosexual couples can get visas as long as they can get by financially, but same-sex couples cannot.” "Depending on how friendly the ruling party is toward homosexuals, it will have a direct impact on how people treat homosexuals, especially homosexual foreigners," he added.

Liu said the couple will work together to advance same-sex marriage acceptance and gender equality. He said he would also relay Taiwan's same-sex marriage and gender tolerance and values to Japan.

In June, Nepal became the second country in Asia to register same-sex marriage.