Koyuki Higashi is slim, articulate and intelligent, things that make a would-be wife attractive to many in Japan. But Higashi knows she will probably never marry because she is a lesbian.
Despite the increasing tolerance of gay marriage in much of the developed world, especially in Europe, and a gradual acceptance of the issue in more liberal states in the US, the subject is not on the radar in Japan or in many parts of Asia.
But when Barack Obama gingerly put his head above the election year parapet, announcing he was in favour of same-sex marriage, it lit a spark of hope on the other side of the Pacific in conservative Japan.
“Seeing the US president expressing his support for same-sex couples was like being told it was ok to be who we are,” said Higashi, 27.
“Everyone now knows Obama supports same-sex marriage. The impact is so big, it’s incomparable.”
Her partner, 34-year-old Hiroko, who uses only one name, agreed.
“I was really happy to see Obama use his starpower in that way,” she said.
Obama’s pronouncement preceded a global campaign aimed at encouraging a stronger voice for gay rights.
His administration dispatched Mark Bromley, chair of advocacy group Council for Global Equality, to Japan in June — gay pride month — where he told reporters equality for same sex couples was an important tenet of human rights.
“(Hillary) Clinton was very elegant in saying that minorities can never fully protect themselves; minorities need majorities to find full protection and full acceptance,” said Bromley, who has a 2-year-old daughter with his husband.
“That requires laws and political support, and social space.”
Homosexuals in Japan welcomed the gesture, but, warned gay expat David Wagner, it was likely to disappear into the void.
“I doubt it will have much impact on other nations such as Japan where the will of the people rarely takes priority,” said Wagner, who has lived in Japan for 25 years.
“Japan is clearly more tolerant than many places,” he said, adding gays and lesbians in Japan are unlikely to encounter outright hostility, something he puts down less to acceptance than to a people who “are agnostic and tend to mix religions.”
But “tolerance has limits in Japan,” he said.
via Bangkok Post: news.