U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pressed her Japanese counterparts to move forward on LGBT rights ahead of the Group of Seven summit in May, even as she praised the country’s investment in infrastructure.
“I believe as a collective in the G7 it’s important to send a message about what precisely aligns these countries,” the New York Democrat told Bloomberg News. “In that context, I think it’s critical that Japan takes steps to move toward recognition of LGBT communities broadly, not just marriage equality.”
Japan is preparing to host the G7 summit of advanced democracies in May as the only member not to recognize same-sex marriage or legally protect LGBT rights amid stiff debate on the issue.
At last year’s summit in Germany, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signed a G7 communique affirming “shared values” with the other members and committing to “ensuring that everyone – independent of their gender identity or expression or sexual orientation — has the same opportunities and is protected against discrimination and violence.”
Japan’s parliament is currently wrestling over a bill to “promote understanding” of LGBT issues, though some conservatives oppose a clause saying that discrimination shouldn’t be allowed. Numerous polls show a majority of the public is in favor of allowing same-sex marriage, however.
“The United States and Japan’s shared commitment to the democratic principles of freedom, equality, and diversity must extend to LGBTQ individuals,” Congressman Mark Takano, the leader of the delegation, added in an email to Bloomberg, urging Japan’s parliament to consider legislation swiftly.
The first openly gay person of color to be elected to Congress, Takano is a co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.
The group met with senior members of Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and trade minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.
Ocasio-Cortez raved about Japan’s infrastructure after traveling on the shinkansen high-speed rail network, a trip she shared with her 8.6 million followers on Instagram.
“It is so critically important that the U.S. begin serious investments in high-speed rail and I believe it’s critically important that those investments be federally led,” she said.
She was echoing remarks by U.S. ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, who has often eschewed the armored BMW that comes with his office to take the train. He has spoken of high-speed rail as an opportunity for U.S.-Japan economic collaboration.
Ocasio-Cortez and the congressional delegation also visited Fukushima, the site of the devastating 2011 nuclear disaster, and will be traveling with Japanese lawmakers to Seoul for trilateral talks with their South Korean counterparts later in the week, she said.
–With assistance from Shoko Oda.
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