Sixty-four percent of respondents to a Kyodo News poll believe same-sex marriage should be recognized in Japan, with the findings on Monday coming amid growing criticism of the government's conservative stance toward LGBT issues.

In the telephone survey, conducted over a three-day period from Saturday, 88.4 percent also said recent remarks hostile to LGBT people by a former executive secretary to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida were inappropriate.

Earlier this month, Masayoshi Arai, an elite bureaucrat, was sacked after saying during an off-the-record conversation with reporters that he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and that he does "not even want to look at" LGBT people.

Japan remains the only country in the Group of Seven that does not legally recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, as many members of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Kishida, have opposed the concept, saying they cherish traditional family values.

Plaintiffs of a damages lawsuit claiming the government's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional head with others to the Osaka District Court in Osaka on June 20, 2022. (Kyodo)

Conservatives in Japan, who often emphasize preserving traditional gender roles, such as the role of women in giving birth and raising children, have voiced opposition to same-sex marriage, arguing that the system may impact the traditional structure of family life in the country.

The latest Kyodo News poll showed that 24.9 percent of respondents said they are not in favor of same-sex marriage.

Kishida, who has described himself as a dovish moderate, has also adopted a cautious attitude toward recognizing same-sex marriage in Japan, saying, "It is a matter that could change people's views on family, sense of values and society."

The comments by Kishida at a parliamentary session earlier this month were seen as inappropriate by 57.7 percent of respondents, according to the survey.

Concerning issues surrounding LGBT rights, 64.3 percent felt there is a need to enact new laws to promote a better understanding of sexual minorities, with the left-leaning opposition bloc urging the LDP-led government to map out the legislation.

Koichi Hagiuda, the LDP's policy chief, said on a TV program on Sunday that he will make efforts to "forge a consensus" on the bill within the ruling party.

Among other internal affairs, 57.6 percent of the respondents supported the government's proposal to stop requiring that students and teachers wear face masks at upcoming school graduation ceremonies scheduled for March, while 35.1 percent opposed the decision.

Kishida's government said last week that COVID-19 guidelines on mask-wearing will be eased on March 13 in a bid to normalize social and economic activities that have been subject to public health restrictions since early 2020, when the novel coronavirus pandemic began.

Monday's survey, meanwhile, showed that approval ratings for Kishida's Cabinet stood at 33.6 percent, almost unchanged from late last month.

The survey called 500 randomly selected households with eligible voters on landline phones and 2,453 mobile phone numbers. It yielded responses from 424 households and 636 mobile phone users.

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