Photo/Illutration Mio Sugita, parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications, comes under fire during questioning at the Lower House’s Special Committee on Political Ethics and Election Law in the Diet on Oct. 26. (Koichi Ueda)

Mio Sugita, a ruling party lawmaker who effectively oversees political ethics and has a track record of making discriminatory remarks against sexual minorities, opted to play her cards close to her chest when opposition parties tried to draw her out on her past controversial comments.

Sugita, named parliamentary vice minister for internal affairs and communications in a Cabinet reshuffle in August, typically said she “would refrain from expressing personal views” when questioned for the first time at the Lower House’s Special Committee on Political Ethics and Election Law in the Diet on Oct. 26.

The 55-year-old politician was asked her views on the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known as the Unification Church, in light of a scandal over ties between politicians and the religious group that emerged in the aftermath of the murder of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 8.

Kentaro Genma of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan asked about a tweet Sugita posted in 2016 in which she said “there is nothing wrong with having support and cooperation from members of the Unification Church.”

She replied, “I’ll refrain from expressing my views.”

When asked to retract the tweet, she explained that “I only meant it is difficult to research the details of my supporters.”

Exasperated, Genma said, “No one would interpret (the tweet) in such a way.”

In 2018, Sugita contributed an article to a monthly magazine in which she took exception to providing administrative support to same-sex couples.

“Those people don’t produce children. In other words, they are unproductive,” she wrote.

She was asked to retract the article but again said, “I’ll refrain from commenting.”

She did not apologize for or offer to retract the article.

However, she elaborated on her previous brief replies by stating, “Respect for diversity is very important, and I would like to respond by making efforts to create a society in which LGBT people can live comfortably.”

This prompted Genma to ask, “How can a person who has no regrets and cannot give an answer serve as a parliamentary vice minister in charge of political ethics?”