Activist fighting for LGBT rights

Toshima Ward candidate aims to pass partnership ordinance

[Taiga] Ishikawa, a 36-year-old writer and activist with inside experience in politics [and an openly gay candidate running for the Toshima Ward Assembly in Tokyo], said he is not trying to become Japan’s Harvey Milk. But what he is aiming for as a politician is to make his neighborhood more friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and foreigners.

“I know it’s a big plan, but if elected, I hope I can enact a partnership ordinance” that would allow unmarried couples regardless of gender to have equal rights as married couples, he said.

Ishikawa is a former secretary to Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima and plans to run as an SDP candidate in the election, which is scheduled for April.

Under the Toshima partnership ordinance he envisions, the ward would issue a certificate to two adults who register as “partners,” giving them the right to apply for ward-managed housing and hospital visitation rights.

He added that he supports local-level suffrage for foreign residents of Japan.

International marriages sometimes require an official certificate to prove the Japanese applicant is unmarried, and the government used to refuse to issue such certificates to Japanese homosexuals attempting to marry in countries that permit same-sex marriages.

But after Ishikawa, his support group and SDP chief Fukushima kept lobbying for change, the government in 2009 effectively allowed Japanese to marry foreigners of the same sex by issuing a new certificate that does not include a sex designation entry to fill in.

“I have realized that if politics change, society will change,” Ishikawa said.

“By embracing diversity, I believe Toshima will be a great place to live,” he said.