For the first time ever, two British Embassy employees got married in a same-sex wedding at the embassy in Tokyo Friday in the hopes of helping Japan learn of U.K.-style “diversity and inclusion” as it searches for ways to better accommodate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.
Diplomat Tim Johnson, 51, and staffer Ryan Parkins, 40, became the fifth same-sex union to be registered at the embassy since June 2014, when legislation took force allowing British same-sex couples to register their marriages at U.K. diplomatic posts in 24 countries, including Japan, as per British law.
It was, however, the first time the embassy had hosted a wedding ceremony for its own staff and invited the media to attend.
“Each country must develop its LGBT policies at their own pace,” the two said in a statement sent to The Japan Times before the wedding.
“We’ve invited selected Japanese guests and media to our same-sex wedding so that Japan can see the U.K.’s policy of diversity and inclusion,” the statement said.
At Friday’s ceremony, the two exchange vows in front of about 50 close friends and relatives before exchanging a kiss and signing a marriage register.
Together with Ambassador Tim Hitchens, the couple then cracked open a cask of sake — albeit with some difficulty — in a celebratory kagamibiraki ritual.
The wedding took place amid an apparent shift in public attitudes toward same-sex marriages.
Last month, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward passed an ordinance granting same-sex unions a status “equivalent” to marriage.
The wedding at the embassy was also held in part to commemorate the start this weekend of the annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride festival and parade, which Johnson and Parkins called an “opportunity to (make) LGBT people visible and celebrate diversity and equality.”
Johnson and Parkins, who took up their positions at the embassy in 2013, have spent many years strenuously fighting for the rights of sexual minorities.
“The wedding ceremony is just the beginning — we’re also excited about spending the rest of our lives together,” they said.