U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is calling on Japan to take steps towards recognizing and legally protecting the LGBTQ+ community ahead of the Group of Seven summit in May.
Japan is the only member of the G7 that has not legalized same-sex marriage or legally protected the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, which is becoming a source of debate.
In a meeting with Japanese parliamentarians this week, Ocasio-Cortez stated that it is crucial for Japan to recognize the “rights” of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I believe as a collective in the G7 it’s important to send a message about what precisely aligns these countries,” said Ocasio-Cortez in a statement to Bloomberg News. “In that context, I think it’s critical that Japan takes steps to move toward recognition of LGBT communities broadly, not just marriage equality.”
At the previous G7 summit, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signed a communique, committing to "ensuring that everyone – independent of their gender identity or expression or sexual orientation — has the same opportunities and is protected against discrimination and violence."
Japan's parliament is presently working on a bill to promote understanding of LGBT issues, though conservatives are pushing back against a federal mandate to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is a protected status in numerous cities, including Tokyo.
Despite this, Time Magazine reports that "numerous” surveys show that the majority of the Japanese public is in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.
While on her trip, Ocasio-Cortez praised Japan's infrastructure, particularly the shinkansen high-speed rail network, which she traveled on. She expressed her belief that the US should start serious investments in high-speed rail, which should be federally led.
US ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, has also spoken in favor of high-speed rail as an opportunity for US-Japan economic collaboration.
Ocasio-Cortez's delegation also visited the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima and will be attending trilateral talks with Japanese and South Korean lawmakers later in the week. Congressman Mark Takano, the leader of the delegation, also urged Japan's parliament to consider legislation for the legal protection of the LGBTQ+ community.