On Monday, it was confirmed that Takatora Kobayashi, a member of the Mie Prefectural Assembly, posted the private address and names of a same-sex couple on his own blog.
Kobayashi has been vocal about not supporting same-sex marriages, taking to Twitter to share his views. Earlier in March, Kobayashi posted that the “local partnership system [in Mie Prefecture] is a tactic to corner the country,” which prompted the couple to send him a letter of inquiry.
The couple has asked for their address to be taken down, but Kobayashi, who says that because he has not been directly contacted by the couple, will not remove their information.
Kobayashi’s actions come less than two weeks since Mie Prefecture banned anyone from outing, or revealing, one’s sexual orientation or gender identity without consent or good reason. The prefecture was the first in Japan to pass such legislation.
Critics have called the official’s actions as contradictory to Mie Prefecture’s stance on protecting the privacy of LGBTQ people.
Atsuko Yamagiwa, a resident of Mie Prefecture for over 20 years, said “I think if Kobayashi had a rule where he posted the private information of every person who’s ever sent him a letter, then that’d be fair. But that’s not the case. I think he’s holding a personal grudge,” she told VICE World News.
In regard to criticism over his actions, Kobayashi took to his blog to restate his position on same-sex marriage.
“As I wrote in my response to the inquiry letter, I don’t think it’s possible and am therefore against applying the current laws on matrimony to same-sex couples. However, I believe that it’s necessary to consider a separate law that would grant some legal protection to same-sex couples, such as property rights,” Kobayashi wrote.
Outing, which is considered a health issue for the LGBTQ community, can be traumatic and detrimental to one’s well-being. In the United States, it’s illegal for school officials to disclose a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity, regardless of whether or not that student has publicly discussed their identity.
In Japan, where no such national law exists, activists and allies have asked officials to provide greater protection to the LGBTQ community. Outing has been under even greater scrutiny, after a university student in Tokyo committed suicide in 2015 when he learned his sexual preference was revealed without his consent.
The graduate student fell to his death when he learned that his romantic interest told a group of peers via messaging app about his sexual orientation. This tragic case was widely covered in Japan, inciting LGBTQ advocates to call for stricter laws against revealing a person’s private life.
Mie Prefecture’s ban on outing LGBTQ individuals, aimed at “realizing a society where people recognize sexual diversity,” was therefore seen as a step forward, but also lacking in some respects.
In an effort to end discrimination, the prefectural government plans to host seminars on outing for its officials and ask local governments, companies and educational institutions to take action. Yet the ordinance does not penalize offenders, and LGBTQ advocates question the weight of this new legislation.
As Kobayashi, a member of the Mie Prefectural Assembly, publicizes a gay couple’s private information, some doubt just how protected individual information is.
“I think Kobayashi shouldn’t have exposed the name and address of this couple on his personal blog - especially because they sent it as individuals, not as part of a large group. Personal information should be protected. I think he’s violated the new law banning outing,” Yamagiwa said.