Photo/IllutrationFive local assembly members, including Aya Kamikawa of Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, center, and Kunihiro Maeda of Bunkyo Ward, second from right, form a league of local politicians to protect the rights of sexual minorities in Tokyo on July 6. Wataru Ishizaka of Nakano Ward is at far right and Taiga Ishikawa of Toshima Ward is at far left, while Tomoya Hosoda from Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, stands second from the left. (Yuki Nikaido)

Five local assembly members who are gay or transgender have set up a league to protect the rights of sexual minorities across Japan through local initiatives.

The group of local politicians will seek to spread local ordinances and policy measures that protect LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, the founding members announced at a news conference in the Tokyo metropolitan government building on July 6.

Seventy-eight supporters, including prefectural and municipal assembly members, also joined the league.

“We want to change society based on changes at local levels,” said Aya Kamikawa, 49, a transgender female and one of the founding members.

An assembly member in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, Kamikawa said moves to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples have spread from local to national levels in other countries.

She strove to introduce a system to officially recognize same-sex couples in Setagaya Ward, leading the ward to be the first local government in Japan to issue certificates recognizing such partnerships in 2015 along with Shibuya Ward.

Kunihiro Maeda, 51, an assembly member in Bunkyo Ward and another founding member, came out as gay at the news conference.

“LGBT people exist in any generation,” he said. “I hope my coming out will encourage people in my generation to take a courageous step.”