On Saturday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida fired an aide who said he wouldn’t want to live next to lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender couples.
Masayoshi Arai, an economy and trade official who joined the prime minister’s staff as a secretary in October, also warned that people would flee Japan if same-sex marriage were permitted.
Arai added he wouldn’t even want to look at same-sex couples.
In remarks broadcast by NHK, PM Kishida called the comments “outrageous and completely incompatible with the administration’s policies.”
Later in the day, Kishida said he had dismissed Arai, who earlier apologized to the prime minister for what Arai characterized as “misleading” comments made last Friday.
The controversy comes after Kishida told Japan’s parliament that same-sex marriage should be considered carefully because of its potential impact on the island nation’s family structure.
Japan will host the Group of 7 nations in May and is the only one among the seven countries that denies marriage or civil unions to same-sex couples.
A series of scandals has rocked Kishida’s tenure since he took office over a year ago. In December, an internal affairs and communications vice minister, Mio Sugita, stepped down after controversial comments about LGBTQ+ people and the country’s indigenous Ainu community.
According to a survey by broadcaster NHK in 2021, 57 percent of respondents in Japan say they support the legal recognition of same-sex unions.
Japan has been ruled by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party for most of the last 70 years. Recognition of LGBTQ+ rights has come in fits and starts.
In 2021, a ruling by a Sapporo district court found Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, while in 2022 in Osaka, a court ruled against a lawsuit involving three same-sex couples, writing that denial of government recognition doesn’t violate the constitution.
The same year, the Tokyo metropolitan government began recognizing same-sex unions.
More than 200 Japanese municipalities offer some form of recognition for same-sex couples, helping them rent apartments together, visit one another in city hospitals, and receive other services that married heterosexual couples enjoy.
In addition to the country’s same-sex marriage ban, the LGBTQ+ community in Japan faces inequities in employment, housing, education and health care, with no national LGBTQ+ non-discrimination protections.