Tokyo’s Olympic committee announced Friday a plan to let Japanese couples marry regardless of their sex, moving ahead with a bid that has not always been popular with Tokyo city lawmakers.
Tokyo already allows same-sex unions for registered gay couples. However, couples who were denied a marriage license could not reconcile and divorce.
Now, there will be “nobody” left to go through the lengthy divorce process, a Tokyo wedding planner said.
“We think this way is the best for our society,” Miyuki Habej, the executive director of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said.
But there have been concerns that allowing same-sex marriage could have an adverse impact on marriage ceremonies that traditionally have couples wear white. The Olympic committee originally planned to hold the ceremonies in a Tokyo park.
But Japanese Sen. Masanori Ohta of Miyagi, the party head of the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party, wrote to Tokyo organizers that asking people to wear white for an event with a mixed audience “could make the event inappropriate for the young generation and contribute to stereotypical ideas that traditional marriages are only between a man and a woman.”
“If we went ahead, they may get offended,” Habej said of the potential counterprogramming. “So we agreed on an indoor location with lots of light.”
The International Olympic Committee’s charter prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“For the time being, it’s in our eyes,” the Tokyo committee’s chief executive Toshiro Muto said. “This is not in our opinion and not in our handbook.”
Still, the plan is not binding. The city’s public authorities are responsible for divorcing same-sex couples. Japanese law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, although a 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court overturned the country’s tax laws on blood relatives.
Same-sex couples can already get married in Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, South Africa and Argentina.
In April, Habej, Hangej’s partner, and a friend were assigned to a wedding ceremony in a Tokyo park, which they had to pay for themselves. Habej and Hangej are residents of Tokyo but live with Habej’s younger sister. The two are business partners, and Habej is vice president of a public company that helps plan wedding ceremonies.
For her and her friend, being able to buy a wedding dress and attend the ceremony could be a ticket to a domestic or international metropolis. “We don’t feel like we are foreigners,” Habej said.
“I’m very excited. I want to be married,” she said. “We have to take this step, but we are not going to quit.”