The ruling Liberal Democratic Party asserted in a recently issued statement that it is against the view expressed by one of its lawmakers that gay and lesbian couples are unproductive because they cannot have children, amid growing criticism over her opinion.
In a statement posted on its website Wednesday, the LDP said a magazine article written by Mio Sugita "shows her lack of understanding of (LGBT) issues and consideration for the feelings of people involved," while noting that the party is working to create a society friendlier to sexual minorities.
It is unusual for the LDP to issue a statement clarifying its position regarding "personal opinions" expressed by its lawmakers.(Mio Sugita)
The move is apparently intended to allay public anger over the issue, which has provoked street protests from members of Japan's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and led some prominent figures in Japan to voice their objections via social media.
Echoing his party's view, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters during a visit Thursday to Miyagi Prefecture that it is "only natural to aim at a society where human rights are respected and diversity is cherished."
The LDP also said a party member in charge of LGBT issues has told Sugita to be "very careful" in her conduct from now on. Sugita, a House of Representatives member elected twice, said through her office Thursday that she will take the matter "sincerely" and will "study diligently."
Opposition parties, however, slammed the ruling party for its "belated" action and "lenient" attitude toward Sugita.
"It is a very indulgent treatment," Yuichiro Tamaki, co-head of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, said at a press conference in Nagasaki Prefecture, adding that it is a sign of how the LDP lacks sufficient recognition of LGBT issues and human rights.
(People protesting in front of Liberal Democratic Party's headquarters)
At issue was an article Sugita contributed to the latest edition of the conservative monthly magazine Shincho 45, which went on sale July 18.
In the article titled "Support for LGBT is too much," Sugita wrote, "Can spending taxpayers' money for LGBT couples gain approval? They don't make children. In other words, they lack 'productivity.'"
"Why can't sexes be just two -- man and woman?" the 51-year-old mother of one also wrote.
The initial response to the matter by the LDP's No. 2 figure, Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, added to the criticism.
Nikai said at a press conference on July 24 that the LDP "is a gathering of wide-ranging people from right to left. Each (LDP politician) has his or her own political position and life philosophy."
Nikai himself had previously come under fire for criticizing -- in a speech he made in Tokyo in June-- people opting not to have children as being "selfish."
Celebrities who have reacted with anger include author Hirotada Ototake, who was born without limbs.
Ototake tweeted, "Some people label others as unproductive even though their situations are not the ones they chose...isn't it politicians' duty to work for removing their difficulties in life?"
"If (Japan) becomes a society where people are judged superior or inferior from the viewpoint of how useful they are to the state, the person to be eliminated next time around can be 'me,'" Ototake said in a tweet shared by thousands of people.
Even as the LDP sought to bring an end to the controversy over Sugita's article, another junior lawmaker, Tomu Tanigawa, was found to have said on a recently aired internet TV program that a same-sex relationship is "something like a hobby."
Tanigawa also said on the program that he does not necessarily reject the idea of sexual diversity but there is "no need to go so far as making a law to allow same-sex marriage."
The remarks drew criticism from the head of the Komeito party, the LDP's junior coalition partner. "I want the LDP to make its lawmakers follow the party's (official) view," Natsuo Yamaguchi said at a press conference on Thursday.