Japan passes an “LGBT understanding” bill, in an incremental step forward for the queer Japanese community.

Japan is the only G7 nation with no legal protection for same-sex unions, except for local city-specific laws which offer limited rights to civil unions. They had promised to pass a law protecting LGBT rights before May’s G7 summit meeting, but the law they passed is not quite that.

The bill which passed on Friday, two weeks after the summit, is being widely criticized as being only lip-service, without any real protections. Long wrangling over wording as watered it down badly from its original intent, leaving wide loopholes for discrimination.

The initial draft, for instance, required that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity should “not be tolerated” but was changed to “there should be no unfair discrimination”, wording critics say tacitly allows bigotry.

“Though the original bill was not especially meaningful, I thought it was better than nothing,” said Takeharu Kato, a lawyer and member of “Marriage for all Japan,” an activist group, prior to the bill’s passage.

“But now I’ve begun to think it might be better to have nothing at all.”

According to opinion polls, around 70% of the population of Japan is inn favor of full rights for same-sex marriages. A similar percentage of the country’s municipalities offer same-sex partnership agreements, but those agreements fall far short of marriage. They don’t guarantee many rights, and aren’t recognized in regions which don’t choose to honor them.

A major court in 2021 ruled that the government’s lack of recognition for same-sex marriage was in breach of their constitution, which requires equal laws, and equal protection under the law for everyone. But actual recognition would require a Supreme Court ruling, and it seems that those at that level of the judiciary are in no hurry to move forward and see that Japan passes any real landmarks.