Japan’s LDP Expected to Struggle With LGBT Bill

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, apologizes for discriminatory comments by one of his aides at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Monday.

The Liberal Democratic Party will likely struggle to agree on a bill to encourage understanding of LGBT issues, particularly regarding how the legislation will refer to discrimination.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also president of the LDP, has a positive stance on the bill following discriminatory comments made against sexual minorities by a former close aide.

The LDP will soon resume discussions on the bill. It postponed its submission to the Diet two years ago, due to opposition from conservative elements within the party.

“There is absolutely no opposition to promoting understanding of LGBT issues. We will factor into our talks the unacceptability of [the aide’s] comments,” Toshiaki Endo, the chairman of the LDP’s General Council, said at a press conference after the General Council meeting Tuesday.

At the meeting, Endo said discussions would be led by Koichi Hagiuda, chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council.

The resumption of talks comes after Kishida instructed senior LDP officials on Monday to prepare to submit the bill to the Diet.

A former close aide of Kishida’s told reporters that he “would hate to even see [same-sex married couples.]” By reopening discussions on the bill, the Kishida Cabinet and the LDP want to counteract the impression that they are reluctant to make efforts to respect diversity.

In 2016, opposition parties jointly submitted to the Diet a bill to eliminate discrimination against LGBT people. The bill prohibited administrative organizations and businesses from discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2021, the LDP compiled the outline of a bill that would require the government to formulate a basic plan to promote understanding of LGBT issues.

In subsequent discussions about amendments with a nonpartisan group of lawmakers including opposition party members, a passage was added to its objectives and basic principles saying, “Discrimination must not be tolerated.”

However, this wording was not approved at the General Council due to opposition from conservative Diet members. Dissent came mainly from the then Hosoda faction — which is now the Abe faction — which claimed that the definition of “discrimination” was unclear.

Concern remains about using this term.

House of Councilors member Shoji Nishida told reporters he would oppose the bill if its wording was not modified. “This is an issue that concerns the innermost feelings of the people. If people are told that discrimination is prohibited, it will split society,” he said.

The opposition parties intend to seek stricter content, saying the LDP is reluctant to tackle the issue. “The current bill to promote understanding of LGBT issues is far from satisfactory for the people concerned,” said Kenta Izumi, leader of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi called for the bill to be passed before the Group of Seven summit meeting to be held in Hiroshima in May. “The LDP should try to reach agreement as soon as possible and pass the bill during this Diet session,” Yamaguchi said at a press conference Tuesday.