While gay marriage is becoming much more accepted in European countries, as well as in the U.S.’s liberal states, it still remains to be discussed in most Asian countries, most notably of all Japan. But those who remain silent about their true sexual preferences in Japan were given a new surge of hope after U.S. President Barack Obama publicly stated that he was in support of same-sex marriages. Japan is a country where homosexuality may be tolerated, but it is not to be openly discussed in almost any way.
Koyuki Higashi, 27, says that when the U.S. president voiced he was in favor of gay marriage, he felt like it was someone directly saying that it was ok to be herself. Now that everyone knows about Obama’s support, it feels like an unrivaled affirmation. Her partner, 34 year old Hiroko, also says that it was wonderful to see the president use his influence in such a way, even if he didn’t expect it have such meaning in another country on the other side of the planet.
Mark Bromley, the leader of the advocacy group Council for Global Equality, was sent by Obama’s administration to Japan in June, which was gay pride month, to discuss the idea that equality for same-sex couples was an important part of basic human rights. Unfortunately, warned David Wagner, a gay expatriate who has lived in Japan for 25 years, the gesture will most likely just fade away over time, as Japan may be tolerant, but they are also very slow to change. A small victory was won recently however, when Tokyo Disneyland consented to allowing same-sex wedding ceremonies at the theme park.
Shuhei Ninomiya, a law professor at Ritsumeikan University, said that bringing the gay marriage debate to Japan will be beneficial to everyone in terms of spurring discussion about the idea of a modern family. There are still laws in place in Japan that see discrimination against children born out of marriage, and require one parent to completely give up their custody in the event of a divorce, which almost always sees the father disappear. In Japan, where there is incredible pressure to conform to social norms, there is very little diversity in the image of marriage or what a family is. By hearing and discussing Obama’s public support of gay couples, Japanese society can see that there are different types of marriages for different types of people.