Ahead of the Group of Seven summit this May, U.S. Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has urged Japan to move forward on legislation that protects its LGBTQ+ citizens.

Local activists have been calling on the government to legalise same-sex marriage country-wide and, out of the G7 countries, Japan is the only one that doesn’t have that protection. 

While a landmark ruling from 2021 declared that queer citizens should have the right to get married in the country, a Japanese court recently ruled that banning same-sex marriage is constitutional.

Currently, the country’s constitution defines marriage as “mutual consent between both sexes” and bans same-sex marriage.

The document also states that gay couples are unable to inherit each other’s assets or share parental rights over each other’s kids. 

Speaking with Bloomberg News, Ocasio-Cortez said: “I believe as a collective in the G7 it’s important to send a message about what precisely aligns these countries. In that context, I think it’s critical that Japan takes steps to move toward recognition of LGBT communities broadly, not just marriage equality.”

During last year’s summit, which was held in Germany, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signed a G7 communique affirming “shared values” with the other members and committing to “ensuring that everyone – independent of their gender identity or expression or sexual orientation — has the same opportunities and is protected against discrimination and violence.”

Mark Takano, the first openly gay person of colour to be elected to Congress, also urged Japan to consider legislation in an email to Bloomberg, writing: “The United States and Japan’s shared commitment to the democratic principles of freedom, equality, and diversity must extend to LGBTQ individuals.”

A public opinion poll from earlier this month showed that the majority of Japanese citizens support legislation of same-sex marriage in the country. Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents to a poll conducted by the Kyodo News agency were in favour of marriage equality.

Roughly the same number (64.3 per cent) said new laws were needed to promote a better understanding of sexual diversity in Japan. Just one quarter (24.9 per cent) were opposed to same-sex marriage.

The survey was conducted just one week after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida fired an aide who made homophobic comments about not wanting to live next to LGBTQ+ couples and expressed a desire to leave Japan if same-sex marriage was introduced.

Almost six in 10 (57.7 per cent) of respondents believed the comments were inappropriate, according to the poll.

The overall approval rating for Kishida’s government stood at 33.6 per cent, a number roughly the same as in January.