An aide to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been fired for making derogatory remarks about LGBTQ couples.
Masayoshi Arai, the executive secretary to the prime minister, was responding to comments made by Kishida regarding whether parliament would take action to legalize same-sex marriage.
The prime minister — whose socially conservative Liberal Democratic Party officially opposes same-sex marriage — said that any legislation on the topic would have to be handled delicately because of its potential impact on traditional family structures.
Following Kishida’s remarks, Arai told reporters that he “wouldn’t like it if [same-sex] couples lived next door,” adding that he “doesn’t even want to look at them,” according to Kyodo News.
Arai also said that legalizing same-sex nuptials would “change the way society is” and predicted that “quite a few people would abandon this country” if parliament took such action.
Japanese society has long embraced the idea of traditional gender roles and family structure. Currently, Japan is the only G7 nation whose government does not recognize same-sex marriage.
However, recent polling suggests that cultural shifts in Japan have led to an increase in support for same-sex nuptials, especially among younger generations.
According to a survey from the Mainichi newspaper and Saitama University conducted between November 2021 and January 2022, 71% of respondents aged 18-29 said that same-sex marriage should be legalized. However, that number falls to 25% among those aged 70 or above — who comprise close to 1 out of every 4 people in the aging country.
Several same-sex couples have filed lawsuits challenging the country’s prohibition of same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.
Kishida called Aria’s remarks “outrageous” and “completely incompatible” with his government’s policies, according to the BBC.
“We have been respecting diversity and realizing an inclusive society,” he said, noting that he had dismissed Arai, replacing him with Sadanori Ito, the director of the ministry’s personnel division.
Arai later apologized, saying his comments were inappropriate and not representative of the prime minister’s own views on the subject.
Arai’s comments are likely to prompt left-leaning opposition lawmakers to grill Kishisa over his views on the topic. The controversy comes at a time when the incumbent government’s approval ratings have dropped due to a number of scandals and controversies that have led at least four ministers to resign from their posts.
Arai’s dismissal echoes a similar controversy that led to the December firing of Mio Sugita, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and the former parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications.
Sugita was previously criticized for — and pressured to retract — remarks she made in 2018, when she said in an interview for a magazine article that the government should not support sexual minority couples because they cannot reproduce naturally and are not “productive.”
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