2016 is our third year, and we are happy to say we have made progress.
We held EMA Japan’s 2nd anniversary party in February, to which Ms. Chinami Nishimura, Member of Parliament (MP) and Secretary General of the Parliamentary Caucus for LGBT, sent a congratulatory message. Ambassador of Denmark also graced the occasion – Denmark is the first country that granted de-facto same-sex marriage. In the Diet, the Democratic Party, the largest opposition party, along with other parties submitted the bill for the elimination of discrimination against LGBTs. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) also released its policies related to LGBT. During the upper house election in July, EMA Japan published the list of the candidates who supported marriage equality, and many of them won seats. MPs from both ruling and opposition parties, including Ms. Tomomi Inada, Chairman of the Policy Research Council of LDP, were open to listening to our voice on the legalization of equal marriage.
In November, LGBT Lawyers and Allies Network (LLAN), the network newly formed by lawyers of law firms such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, and Morrison Foerster, as well as Goldman Sachs, held an Equality Gala dinner, with the support of other lawyers from Japan’s major firms, including Anderson Mori and Tomotsune, Mori Hamada and Matsumoto, Nagashima Ohno and Tsunematsu, and Nishimura and Asahi. In the Gala, President of the American Bar Association and the former justice of the High Court of Australia gave speeches to support the legalization of same-sex marriage in Japan. Two representatives from the Japanese Diet, Ms. Karen Makishima, Deputy Secretary General of the Parliamentary Caucus for LGBT, and Ms. Noriko Miyagawa, Secretary General of the LDP’s Special Panel for LGBT, also participated.
EMA Japan also had opportunities to discuss the necessity of same-sex marriage at companies such as Avanade and co-organized several symposia about marriage equality with the association of lawyers. We believe that these activities contributed to increasing the momentum toward the legislation that would secure the freedom to marry in Japan.
Among others, the highlight of our activities this year was inviting Mr. Evan Wolfson, to Japan, who was the president of Freedom to Marry and had played a central role in the realization of same-sex marriage in the United States.
We wish to express our gratitude for the immense supports of the Embassy and the Consulate Generals of the United States and the local associations of lawyers for human rights for Evan’s lectures in Tokyo (American Center), Sapporo, Osaka and Naha. We also would like to thank the Embassy of the Netherlands, the first country that legalized same-sex marriage in the world, for providing a venue for his luncheon lecture. Last but certainly not least, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the participants of these lectures as well as the sponsors, Delta Air Lines, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Morrison Foerster, and Linklaters that provided kind and generous supports.
Not only did Evan discuss the importance (or necessity) of marriage equality with people across Japan, but suggested what activities EMA Japan should focus on. His messages encouraged us to develop and implement more concrete strategies toward generating public opinion, taking legal actions, promoting same-sex partnership policies at local governments, and lobbying effectively at the national level.
There are currently seven directors of EMA Japan, all of them possessing a full-time job, working for EMA Japan on a voluntary basis. The directors, along with other EMA members and volunteers, have conducted the various activities mentioned above. In 2017, EMA Japan will bolster its capabilities – office structure, public relations, fundraising and other activities, including renewing our website, to implement the strategies. We would be grateful for your continued supports, as well as any financial supports, even if small donation, which would enable us to work for marriage equality. (Please access http://emajapan.org/donate, Credit Card is accepted.)
EMA Japan will continue to strive in 2017 for pursuing a path to the freedom to marry, elimination of the legal discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, and promoting the society where everyone can enjoy his or her life as he or she wishes.