TOKYO — Japanese activists including seven parents of LGBT children submitted a petition with more than 25,000 signatures to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party on Friday, demanding that a lawmaker apologize for saying that sexual minorities are unproductive and don't deserve public support.
A lawmaker belonging to Abe's ruling party, Mio Sugita, said in a right-wing magazine in July that the government shouldn't use tax money for LGBT rights because same-sex couples don't produce children and have "no productivity." The comment triggered outrage from sexual minorities as well as others, including the elderly and disabled.
Abe's Liberal Democratic Party was slow to respond, criticizing her only after tens of thousands of people staged angry protests outside the party headquarters. While critics called her remark tantamount to hate speech, senior party officials seemed to excuse it by saying it represented one of a variety of views.
The activists submitted 26,650 signatures to the party on Friday demanding that it have Sugita apologize.
There is a superficial acceptance of homosexuality in Japan, generally in the entertainment industry. However, many homosexuals hide their sexuality, even from their families, because of a fear of prejudice at school or work in a country where pressure for conformity is strong.
Japan does not legally recognize same-sex marriages. As LGBT rights awareness has gradually grown in recent years, some municipalities have begun issuing partnership certificates to ease problems in renting apartments and other areas, but they are not legally binding.
The group also demanded that the ruling party make clear that it does not tolerate views similar to Sugita's.
Ryoko Kobayashi, the mother of a transgender son, said Sugita's remark deeply hurt the feelings of LGBT children who are already struggling with their sexual identities. Some of the parents said their children, after hearing Sugita's remark, asked if they deserved to live, and others said they felt their future was closed.
"What she said was like telling them that they are worthless," Kobayashi said in a telephone interview after she submitted the petition. "There is nothing wrong about being LGBT. The problem is with people like Sugita and a society that discriminates against them."
Kobayashi said Sugita discriminated not only against LGBT people, but also against anyone who doesn't have children by choice or other reasons.
Days after Sugita's magazine article triggered outrage, another ruling party lawmaker, Tomu Tanigawa, said in a television talk show that same-sex couples don't need legal protection because being LGBT is "like a hobby." He said it was heterosexual couples with children who have allowed the country to continue.