Lawmaker Sugita retracts past comments on LGBTs

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Parliamentary Vice Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Mio Sugita speak in the Diet in Tokyo on Wednesday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Parliamentary Vice Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Mio Sugita on Friday announced the retraction of past inappropriate comments about LGBT couples and ethnic costumes.

“I apologize to those hurt [by the comments] and withdraw my expressions,” Sugita, a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Councillors.

She has been criticized by opposition parties over a magazine article in which she called lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples “unproductive” and a blog post in which she made fun of women wearing “chima jeogori,” a Korean ethnic costume, and the ethnic costume of the Ainu indigenous people in Japan.

“These are expressions made before she became parliamentary vice minister,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the LDP’s president, told the committee meeting.

The retraction “is believed to show an improvement in her awareness” of such issues after she became a member of the cabinet, Kishida said. “I want her to continue performing her duties.”

Ahead of the committee meeting, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Takeaki Matsumoto told a press conference that Korean and Ainu costumes concern ethnic pride and that it is obvious that her comments about LGBT couples were not good.

The minister said Sugita told him that she takes it seriously that she has hurt people’s feelings with those remarks and feels sorry.

Matsumoto said he instructed her to apologize and retract the expressions.