Tokyo — Japan is the only country among the so-called G-7 industrialized nations that. But momentum for change is growing, thanks in large part to couples who've stepped out of the shadows to push for equality and inclusion — despite the personal risks.
The banners and the bunting were hung for Tokyo's first full-scale Pride parade since the coronavirus pandemic. It was both a party, and a political rally to press for same-sex marriage rights.
U.S. Ambassadorand lent his vocal support, saying he could already "see a point in Japan's future" when, "like America… where there is not straight marriage… not gay marriage… there's only marriage."
Proudly joining the parade that day were Kane Hirata and Kotfei Katsuyama, who have become poster boys for the cause.
Asked why they believe their country is the only one in the G-7 that doesn't yet allow same-sex marriage, Katsuyama told CBS News Japan's ruling political party has close ties with fringe religious sects and staunchly conservative anti-LGBTQ groups.
A powerful right-wing minority in Japan's parliament has managed for years to block major changes to the country's laws.
Hirata and Katsuyama both started life as middle-class kids in families with traditional values. Both men went on to take conventional jobs — Katsuyama as a policeman and Hirata as a firefighter.
They went quietly about their lives for years but remained deep in the closet. Then, about two years ago, they both quit — and then came out together with a social media splash, telling their story for all to see on YouTube.
It was a bold move in Japan's conservative, conformist society, and there has been backlash.
"We get a lot of support," Katsuyama told CBS News. "But nasty messages, too."
They now live together in a Tokyo apartment, working hard in their new vocation as prominent LGBTQ advocates. The couple staged a wedding last year, but the mock exchanging of vows was a stunt to make a point, not a legal ceremony.
Asked if they'd like to tie the knot for real, Hirata lamented that "right now, we can't even consider it realistically… and that's very sad."
But Japan's lively and growing Pride movement has recently found increasing support from the country's courts, and polling shows a decisive 70% of Japanese voters would like to see couples like Hirata and Katsuyama gain the right to be married.
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