In a move unprecedented by the central government, the city of Osaka, Japan granted a gay couple the ability to legally adopt a child. While no law officially stands preventing same-sex couples from adoption, their applications would usually be turned away unless they specifically adopted as individuals. While this at least allowed same-sex couples to raise a child, being unrecognized as a family presented them with a lack of legal representation. Additionally, the notion that an unmarried couple was unable to legally consider themselves a family most likely contributes to social isolation.
LGBT rights activists have struggled to maintain a vocal presence in Japan. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, while overall hatred is not widespread, LGBT organizations are limited in how they can mobilize. Japanese cities in the past have treated activists with ambivalence, often limiting the scale and size of rallies and marches, if they are even permitted. This makes life difficult especially for young LGBT people and their families, who are relentlessly isolated and bullied, often with little opposition from teachers and education officials.
According to Japanese libertarian activist and Tokyo Tea Party official, Katsuhiro Tamagawa, many cities are moving to support LGBT rights. While changing the central government’s view will not be easy, Tamagawa believes that shift will occur within the next decade.
Change is already occurring on the local levels. In spite of the official ban on same-sex unions, Harajuku, one of Tokyo’s most cosmopolitan areas, now awards same-sex couples official documentation granting them the same rights as other couples within the district. Additionally, the Rainbow Pride Parade in Tokyo last year was covered extensively in the media. One attendant was a member of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party, who like many Japanese politicians, who said that she would like the party to open up towards LGBT individuals.
Families will always find ways of being together, but not being recognized as one can hurt and isolate the individuals within it. Perhaps other cities will follow Osaka’s example, allowing same-sex couples the same chance as any to raise children in a good home.
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