Japan’s prime minister sacks senior aide for saying he hates seeing LGBTQ+ couples
Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida has fired a senior aide for saying he didn’t even “want to look at” LGBTQ+ couples.
Economy and trade official Masayoshi Arai was sacked on Saturday (4 February) following comments made to journalists that he wouldn’t “want to live next door” to same-sex or transgender couples.
Not even a day later, Kishida announced he had dismissed Arai for his comments, which the aide later apologised for.
“His comments are outrageous and completely incompatible with the administration’s policies,” Kishida said in remarks aired by broadcaster NHK.
Arai also reportedly said that same-sex couples would “change the way society is” while claiming that “quite a few people” would leave Japan if same-sex marriage was legalised in the country.
Currently, same-sex couples can only engage in civil unions, which are only permitted in certain regions of the country such as Tokyo.
This means that, while civil partnerships allow couples to register for local government services, they cannot inherit assets or adopt.
Bans on same-sex marriage have been routinely upheld by high courts following several legal actions by activists who have tried to declare the ban as “unconstitutional.”
This is despite several surveys finding that an overwhelming majority of Japan supports the legalisation of marriage for queer couples.
The prime minister told reporters prior to Arai’s comments that same-sex marriage needed careful consideration because of its impact on so-called “family values.”
“We need to be extremely careful in considering the matter as it could affect the structure of family life in Japan,” he said.
His inaction on LGBTQ+ rights has contributed to his worryingly low opinion poll rating, which halved to just 30 per cent since last year.
It has also prompted political officials to criticise Kishida, several of who have resigned as a result.
Openly gay politician Taiga Ishikawa called the controversy “beyond one’s patience” while noting that Arai claimed all of Kishida’s executive secretaries are against same-sex marriage.
Additionally, opposition leader Kenta Izumi said the remarks were “terrible” and that Arai’s dismissal was a “matter of course.”
In his public apology, Arai said he had used expressions that “may cause misunderstanding” and reiterated that the prime minister “does not think like that.”
“I caused trouble due to my own opinions,” he said. “It is not desirable for any officials in posts like mine to say such a thing.”
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