Photo/IllutrationA lesbian couple hold a wedding ceremony in Tokyo on June 17 although same-sex marriages have not been legally approved in Japan. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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Liberal Democratic Party candidates for the Upper House election easily had the lowest support rate for legalizing same-sex marriages, but signs of acceptance are rising within the ruling party, a survey showed.

A growing number of local governments around Japan have certified same-sex partnerships. But at the national level, LDP lawmakers who stand behind the traditional form of family consisting of a man, a woman and their children are seen as the main obstacle in passing legislation to approve gay marriages.

However, the latest survey, jointly conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and the office of Masaki Taniguchi, a professor of political science at the University of Tokyo, indicates that staunch opposition to gay marriages has declined in the LDP.

The survey asked candidates for the July 21 Upper House election to choose one of five options on same-sex marriages: “support,” “support if I have to choose,” “oppose,” “oppose if I have to choose” and “I cannot decide.”

Thirty-six percent of the LDP candidates who responded said they opposed same-sex marriages or opposed them if they had to choose.

Only 9 percent of the LDP candidates supported same-sex marriages or supported them if they had to choose.

The largest group, 55 percent, answered that they could not decide.

The same survey question was posed to candidates ahead of the two previous national elections. The ratio of LDP candidates who opposed same-sex marriages was 60 percent in the 2016 Upper House election and 46 percent in the 2017 Lower House election.

This time, the ratio dropped further, to 36 percent.

The ratio of LDP candidates who took a neutral stance by saying they could not decide has increased.

In contrast to the LDP’s dominant position, 58 percent of candidates of junior coalition partner Komeito support same-sex marriages, according to the survey.

LDP opponents have argued that same-sex marriages would be unconstitutional, citing Article 24 of the Constitution that says, “Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.”

Supporters of the rights of sexual minorities say that article is open for interpretation.

In June, three opposition parties--the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party--jointly submitted to the Lower House draft revisions of the Civil Code to legalize same-sex marriages.

The support rate for gay marriages exceeded 90 percent for candidates of all three parties.

Fifty-nine percent of candidates for the Democratic Party for the People and 89 percent of candidates for the Reiwa Shinsengumi party support legalizing gay marriages, the survey showed.

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) has pledged to approve same-sex marriages in its election campaign platform. But only 29 percent of its candidates for the Upper House election actually support gay marriages, the survey showed.

Among the party’s candidates, 48 percent said they could not decide on their stance, while 24 percent said they opposed same-sex marriages.

In a different joint survey conducted on eligible voters in 2017, 32 percent of respondents supported same-sex marriages, 28 percent were in opposition, and 39 percent were neutral.