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Gay wedding ceremonies seen gaining wider acceptance

by

Kyodo

Yukiko Hosomi and Kaz Williams, a lesbian couple, tied the knot at a once-unlikely place: a Buddhist temple.

As is the custom in Buddhist weddings, Hosomi, a 40-year-old Japanese woman residing in Britain, and Williams, a 51-year-old British resident, were clad in kimono. The ceremony was held in December 2012 at Shunkoin Temple in Kyoto.

“For same-sex couples, it is difficult to just live together,” Hosomi said, speaking of the social obstacles to gay marriage. However, she said the wedding ceremony served to renew her resolve to overcome difficulties.

At the ceremony, the presiding priest cited the Buddhist maxim that everything, including human beings, in this world constantly changes and advised the newlyweds to accept each other’s changes as time passes, saying the wedding is not a goal.

Williams also expressed satisfaction with the calm feelings she experienced at the ceremony. Hosomi and Williams spoke from Britain via Skype.

Hosomi first met Williams in 1997, when she was staying in Britain as a student, and they lived together there after becoming partners. But they came all the way to Shunkoin for their wedding ceremony after hearing from another gay person of the temple’s willingness to bless same-sex couples.

Since Shunkoin opened its gates to same-sex weddings around five years ago, five gay couples have held ceremonies there.

What prompted the openness was a request from a Spanish gay woman participating in a Zen meditation session who asked to use the temple for a wedding with her partner. Zenryu Kawakami, the deputy temple master who talked with the Spanish woman, said he accepted her request because Mahayana Buddhism, the prevailing form in Japan, has nothing against homosexuality.

“I would like to support loving couples as they start a new life, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, and to help more people understand LGBT,” Kawakami said, using a generic term for sexual minorities. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

A survey in 2012 by the Dentsu Innovation Institute showed that around 5 percent of Japanese adults were sexual minorities.

Wedding facilities openly embracing gay couples are increasing, according to Nijiiro Diversity, a nonprofit organization in Osaka that advises companies about how to deal with sexual minority issues.

Among such facilities are Aoyama Geihinkan in Tokyo and Kafuu Resort Fuchaku Condo Hotel in Okinawa. The latter, which started wedding services for same-sex couples last September, has opened a website dedicated to the service.

Meanwhile, Shibuya Ward in Tokyo made headlines at the end of March by approving a draft ordinance recognizing same-sex partnerships as being equivalent to marriage. It is aiming to reduce the discrimination often faced by homosexual couples, and is the first municipality in the country to take such a move.

“I hope weddings of same-sex couples will raise awareness that sexual minorities are not people who exist only on TV or in foreign countries but people who may be around you,” said Maki Muraki, who heads Nijiiro Diversity.