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Japanese lawmaker under fire for anti-LGBT stance

Sugita has made controversial comments in the past

CNN  — 

A Japanese politician has come under fire for questioning whether LGBT taxpayers should receive equal welfare benefits to the rest of Japan.

Lower House member Mio Sugita called gay couples “unproductive” and wondered whether it was “appropriate to spend taxpayer money on them” in a magazine article published last Wednesday.

Sugita, who belongs to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is no stranger to controversial statements.

She has previously denied the existence of comfort women, victim-blamed the leader of Japan’s MeToo movement, and garners more than her fair share of media attention for a junior lawmaker, according to Temple University professor Jeff Kingston.

“Within the party, she’s essentially a nobody,” Kingston said. “But because of her prominent right-wing views, she gets a lot of media attention.”

Sugita’s comments have caused an uproar in Japan, prompting politicians to call out the 51-year-old on social media.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama condemned Sugita’s article in a tweet, stating “You don’t need to make a child for there to be love in the world. I want them (the LGBT community) to live their lives with dignity.”

Shunsuke Takei, former parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs and currently Sugita’s colleague in the Lower House, tweeted that the politician’s article is “not politics but simply hate speech.”

According to Japanese media reports, Sugita claimed in tweets that other senior members in Parliament supported her.

The politician has since deleted her tweets, alleging that her article provoked death threats from the LGBT community.

Controversial history

This is not the first time that a member of the LDP has expressed anti-LGBT sentiments. In November, a senior member of the same party said that the imperial banquets hosted by Emperor Akhito should refrain from inviting same-sex partners of state guests, according to Kyodo News.

Sugita herself has expressed the same anti-LGBT sentiments before. An interview from a talk show in 2015 has resurfaced in Japanese media, and quotes her voicing incendiary opinions on policies toward LGBT students in schools.

“If we recognize different sexual orientations, that will lead to calls to allow marriage between siblings, marriage between parents and children, or even marriage to pets or machines,” she said.

Sugita’s comments were again brought up at a press conference with LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai on Tuesday, but he did not support or criticize his party member’s comments.

“Everybody has their own political stance and philosophy of life. The LDP is made up of members from different fields, representing the entire political spectrum from the right to the left,” he said, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

Although Nikai still stressed the need for a diverse society, his views have not appeased Japan’s thriving LGBT community, who released a press statement stating that they plan to storm the LDP headquarters on Friday and protest Sugita’s comments.

Japan has yet to legalize same-sex marriage, but same-sex partnerships are recognized in certain Japanese municipalities. Abe’s government has also taken an active interest in the growing LGBT community by educating students on gender identity and implementing anti-bullying policies toward LGBT students, according to the Human Rights Watch.

Japan’s first lady, Akie Abe, is known for standing up for LGBT rights and has attended gay pride parades in the past.

Kingston said the prime minister has not commented on Sugita’s controversial article in the run up to September’s elections.

“The LDP is sitting in a sweet spot right now. Abe is very likely to win the re-election,” said Kingston.”They’d want to downplay a controversy like this.”