An assembly member in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, said the municipal government's efforts to support sexual minorities will encourage such people to move there and make the city "the center of HIV infections."

The remark Wednesday by Shigeta Okochi, 44, of the Liberal Democratic Party caused the assembly session to be suspended for about half an hour after another assembly member protested it as discriminatory and inappropriate.

Okochi withdrew the HIV remark on Friday, and the assembly's steering committee approved his request to strike it from the official record.

"I have used an expression which could be misunderstood as homosexuality being closely related to HIV. I apologize," he told reporters after the committee meeting.

In March, Takarazuka Mayor Tomoko Nakagawa announced that the city will take measures to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The municipal government set up a panel in April to consider steps, such as issuing same-sex marriage certificates, with a plan to draft a basic policy in October.

Okochi told the assembly Wednesday that if Takarazuka announces such policies, "some residents might worry that many LGBT people would be attracted to the city and the city could become the center of HIV infections."

He also claimed that educating students about sexual minorities in schools "could encourage students to become LGBT people influenced by the environment."