A local assemblyman apologized Tuesday for saying last month that his north Tokyo municipality would “cease to exist” if the rights of sexual minorities were protected by law, after his remarks triggered a public outcry.
“I sincerely apologize to all the people who were hurt by my remarks,” said Masateru Shiraishi of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in an assembly session in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, about a month after making the comments that sparked protests against the 11th-term politician.
“I regret my actions and will make efforts to accept different sexualities from now on,” he said.
The 79-year-old assemblyman had retracted the same day his remarks seen as blaming LGBT people for the nation’s falling birthrate.
On Sept. 25, Shiraishi asked in an assembly session, “If all Japanese women were lesbian or all Japanese men were gay, then do you think the next generation of people would be born?”
But he later made an about-face after the assembly’s chairman, also an LDP member, urged him to retract his remarks and apologize publicly.
While Japan does not legally recognize same-sex marriages, some changes have been made at the local level, with more than 50 municipalities across the country including Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, issuing “partnership certificates” to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples.
Before the assembly session, a group of roughly 30 people held a protest against Shiraishi in front of the ward office building.
“I came here to express the fact that I am not special. I am the sort of person you can find anywhere,” said one of the protesters, Koichiro Hoshino, 55, who is openly gay.
The assembly and Adachi municipal government had received over 570 complaints about Shiraishi as of Monday, according to officials, with a number of protests and petitions being organized by civic groups.
“As a person who was born and raised in Adachi Ward, I felt sad and disappointed when I first heard Shiraishi’s remarks,” said Satoko Nagamura, the 38-year-old chairperson of Kodomap, an organization advocating for sexual minorities who wish to have children.
Nagamura said she hopes that everyone including Shiraishi can better understand sexual minorities through discussions, and that people with different values can respect each other regardless of their sexuality.
“Even among non-LGBT people, there are couples who do not want to have children or who are currently undergoing fertility treatment. Shiraishi’s remarks also hurt those people,” she added.
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