Tokyo Disneyland has had a rare brush with controversy, after it decided it will allow gay marriage ceremonies, delighting Japan’s typically quiet gay rights advocates and mildly annoying the less tolerant masses.
As might be expected of Japan, the impetus for the change came not from vociferous protests from gay rights advocates or religious maniacs finally being defeated, but from a minor administrative policy change brought on by a hint of controversy.
When a Tokyo-based lesbian couple asked if they could book a “marriage” ceremony (Japan has neither same sex marriage or civil partnerships, so it is the ceremony only), they were condescendingly told “ordinary customers are watching, so we would like one of you to come dressed as the bridegroom.”
This greatly disappointed the couple, and they made their dissatisfaction known on Twitter, and Tokyo Disneyland (often called “TDL” or, less flatteringly, “ratland”) was soon conferring with its masters in America as to whether it could allow a marriage ceremony between two women dressed as brides.
They relented, and a week later it was made known that “marriage ceremonies between same sex couples wearing the same costumes are possible.”
Tokyo Disneyland conceded that “even if same sex marriage is not legally recognised, we judged it was possible to hold these marriage ceremonies.”
The couple in question was later treated to the Mickey Mouse wedding of their dreams, and their success was widely reported.
The USA’s various Disneyland resorts have offered similar ceremonies for some time, although unlike Japan’s these are actually legally recognised (in certain states at least).
As there is virtually no pressure for or against legally recognising same-sex marriage in Japan, a fake Disney wedding is likely the most homosexual couples in Japan can ever hope for, although those who have changed sexes are already able to marry without issue.
Japan’s legal definition of marriage is actually laid out in the nation’s constitution, using language which would traditionally be interpreted along strict “man and wife” lines, so many are of the opinion that no less than a full constitutional amendment would be required to allow it.
Others are of the opinion that some careful changes to civil marriage law could allow it – although given that even a law enabling something as inoffensive as allowing married couples to retain different surnames (although Japan already has a long tradition of allowing men to adopt their wife’s surname) has repeatedly failed to be passed and faces significant public opposition, this also seems a distant prospect.