LDP lawmaker Tom Tanigawa under fire for saying LGBT relationships are ‘like a hobby’

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

A junior Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker is under fire for suggesting that same-sex relations are a kind of “hobby” and that legal measures to allow same-sex marriage are unnecessary.

“It’s not that I don’t approve of diversity and it’s fine if women like women and men like men. But it’s not necessary to legalize same-sex marriage. It’s like a hobby,” LDP Lower House member Tom Tanigawa, 42, said on an internet television program on July 29.

Tanigawa, a two-term member based in Osaka Prefecture, could not be reached for comment Thursday by The Japan Times. The Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday evening that, in a written reply to the paper earlier that day, Tanigawa said he did not intend to discriminate against the LGBT community, and that recognizing same-sex marriages under Article 24 of the Constitution was difficult.

Article 24 says: “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.”

Tanigawa’s remarks come just before a two-day meeting in Osaka, beginning Friday, of representatives from a nationwide group of over 200 local LGBT lawmakers that was formed last year. Taiga Ishikawa, a municipal assembly member from Tokyo’s Toshima Ward and a spokesman for the group, said Tanigawa’s comments invited misunderstanding and prejudice against the LGBT community and ran counter to the LDP’s own policy.

“Tanigawa’s comments are not something we can tolerate, as this kind of prejudice will spread, making things worse. Despite the fact the LDP has a leaflet that says there are people who mistakenly call LGBT lifestyle a ‘hobby’, we have comments like Tanigawa’s,” Ishikawa said.

The comments were made just days after fellow junior LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita was heavily criticized for calling Japan’s LGBT community “unproductive” in terms of childbirth and writing in the latest issue of the Shincho 45 magazine that tax money should not be used to support LGBT couples for this reason.

Her comments immediately drew criticism from senior LDP officials, including former secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba, who is challenging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the party leadership. Thousands of people gathered outside LDP headquarters in Tokyo to protest Sugita’s remarks on July 27.

On Wednesday, the party released a formal statement, saying that she was expressing her individual opinion but had been instructed to be careful.

“It’s a fact her remarks showed a lack of understanding of the problem and failed to take into consideration the involved parties,” the LDP said on its website.

Like Sugita, Tanigawa is part of a younger generation of politicians with conservative views. He has suggested that “traditional” families are marriages between men and women that produce children, thus preventing Japan from going to ruin.

Tanigawa, a former actor whose real name is Tomohide, opposes Japan having a female emperor. He has also suggested that the Constitution be revised and indicated he is in favor of discussions about the possibility of the country arming itself with nuclear weapons.