Tokyo becomes the first place in East Asia to recognize same-sex marriage
In a big milestone for same-sex partnerships in East Asia, several same-sex couples were wed over Tokyo's Rainbow Pride Weekend. It wasn't until this March that anywhere in East Asia recognized same-sex marriages, when the liberal Shibuya Ward in Tokyo, Japan passed the ordinance allowing same-sex couples partnership certificates.
The certificate is not legally binding, but it does grant gay couples hospital visitation and shared rental agreement rights. While this measure gave many people a reason to rejoice, not everyone was happy about the development. Toshitake Kuwahara, the Shibuya ward mayor, explained, "Everyone has a right to become happy and they should be equal and everything, but maybe for some people in some way there had been some feeling that blocked their attitude to have more understanding towards these things."
Same-sex marriage isn't opposed for religious reasons in Japan, but LGBTQ rights have developed slowly because of conservative cultural attitudes. Kyodo News reported in a poll last year that 52 percent of Japanese said they opposed same-sex marriage. Jeffrey Trambley, vice president of the Equal Marriage Alliance in Japan, explained, "I think they were so bound to tradition in some ways, especially with the family and the way they register their family, and so any change to the family and that idea about the family is a challenge."
Despite this attitude, the LGBTQ community hasn't faced much overt discrimination, explains Fumino Sugiyama, the organizer of Pride Weekend. "For better or for worse, Japan is a place that doesn't have a lot of conflict. If there were a lot of hate crimes or people felt danger, or if you weren't allowed to participate in government because you were LGBT, we would be like, 'Let's fight!' But we're not really rejected. As long are you don't make a fuss, you can get by. That's one of the big reasons it hasn't been a bigger issue."
Other areas in Tokyo, Setagaya ward and the city of Yokohama, are thinking about passing similar measures, and it may not be long before it spreads country-wide.
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