Japan has gained its first openly gay male member of the House of Councilors. The nation has seen openly LGBTQ politicians before, including Kanako Otsuji who became the first LGBTQ House of Councilors member in 2013, but a recent election signifies an intensified effort for LGBTQ visibility in Japanese politics.
Taiga Ishikawa was elected to the Upper House for the first time by winning a seat in the proportional representation system on July 21. The 45-year-old came out as gay in 2011 before becoming a social activist speaking out for gay rights. He ran for a political position with the Toshima Ward assembly, as a member of the Social Democratic Party, and won.
Taiga later ended up leaving the SDP and joining the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan or CDPJ. This is the political group that he ran with for this recent election. He ran on the promises to work on same-sex marriage and equality for all.
“I was calling for the acknowledgement of LGBT people in the election,” Taiga said at his campaign office after winning the seat. “A lot of people all over Japan plucked up their courage to vote for me. This acknowledges that we are here.”
Taiga doubled down on these words of support for same-sex marraige while speaking to international news sources.
“Since the early 2000s, the issue of same-sex marriage has progressed leaps and bounds,” Ishikawa told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Tuesday.
“It will happen within the six years of my term, I am sure.”
— 石川大我 参議院議員 🌈 (@ishikawataiga) July 21, 2019
Around 4:45 a.m., Taiga and his supporters heard the news that he had won the position. He and the group then erupted into joyous applause, as you can see above. Taiga then promised to work hard on representing minorities like LGBTQ people. And it seems he’ll be working fast, as he and his party are working on a bill to fight discrimination against LGBTQ people and another to bring marriage equality to the country.
“I would like to do my best to enact both pieces of legislation,” Taiga said. “I want to support vulnerable people in this society as a politician.”