Taiga Ishikawa grabbed headlines when he became Japan’s first openly gay lawmaker in the country’s legislature. The 45-year-old was elected to parliament’s upper house on July 21 with Japan’s ruling party’s opposition, Constitutional Democratic Party.
At the top of Ishikawa’s agenda is legalizing same-sex marriage, he told the Thomas Reuters Foundation.
“Since the early 2000s, the issue of same-sex marriage has progressed leaps and bounds,” he said. “It will happen within the six years of my term, I am sure.”
But this promise comes as Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is keeping his seat in the recent elections. Abe has consistently opposed propositions to legalize gay marriage in the country.
“Whether to allow same-sex marriage is an issue that affects the foundation of how families should be in Japan, which requires an extremely careful examination,” Abe said in a statement last year.
He also expressed his opposition to the idea in a television debate leading up to Japan’s elections this year.
LGBTQ acceptance in Japan is comparatively greater than in other countries in the region—it even allows Japanese couples to marry in other countries where same-sex marriage is legal. While gay sex has been legal in Japan since 1880, progress towards marriage equality has stalled.
More than a dozen local governments of cities in Japan legally recognize same-sex couples and issue certificates for these partnerships, but this does not apply to the union of marriage. Amongst these is the city of Chiba, which has over a million residents.
More recently, efforts to legalize same-sex marriage has spread widely in the country. On Valentine’s Day this February, thirteen gay couples filed a lawsuit asking the government to recognize same-sex marriage in Japan. Kanako Otsuji, Japan’s first openly lesbian lawmaker, assisted in pushing a marriage equality bill in June. However, the Liberal Democratic Party declined to debate it.
Ishikawa said that other countries legalizing the act have been a positive influence. Taiwan, for instance, became the first country in Asia to make marriage equality a law in May 2019.
“It has been incredibly empowering to the Japanese LGBT community to see the growing acceptance overseas of same-sex marriage,” he told Reuters. “I think we’ve got a breakthrough now and I plan to move the conversation forward.”