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Politics

Japan ruling party abandons LGBT bill as consensus elusive

LDP official says passage 'impossible' without unanimous support

Marchers hold up a rainbow flag at a pride parade in Tokyo.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Friday gave up on legislation to promote public awareness of sexual minorities, proving unable to overcome opposition within its own ranks.

Tsutomu Sato, who chairs the LDP's General Council, told a news conference that passage in the current session would be "impossible." The bill, supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, will not be submitted before the session ends on June 16.

The LDP's long-running efforts to pass the legislation have faced strong resistance from the party's right wing. Proponents hoped that this summer's Tokyo Olympics -- an event celebrating diversity and unity -- would provide enough momentum for a breakthrough. But in the end, the party could not muster enough support from its members.

The bill was put together by a cross-party group of lawmakers based on a draft by the LDP. At the opposition's urging, it states a goal of not tolerating "discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

Sato worried that if the bill were submitted and discussions continued into the next session in the fall, it could be scrapped altogether once the lower house's term expired in October.

"If we submit it under the current circumstances, all of our work so far would be wasted," Sato said.

Conservative lawmakers in the party have questioned the wording of the bill, such as "discrimination should not be tolerated," arguing that it could open up the floodgates to lawsuits. Some said the legislation would be exploited by "leftist activists."

In an incident cited as an example of the insensitivity on the issue within the party, LDP lower house member Kazuo Yana reportedly told a party meeting last week that LGBT people go against "the preservation of the species."

The wrangling continued Friday. Some lawmakers called for quick action because "people are suffering" and "we've had enough discussions." But naysayers brought up such technicalities as defining "the scope of discrimination."

"The General Council has a unanimity rule. We could not reach that," Sato said.

The opposition Constitutional Democratic Party had supported the proposed legislation.

"We are very disappointed by today's outcome," said Tetsuro Fukuyama, the party's secretary-general.

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