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Japanese plaintiffs hold placards reading "A step towards Marriage Equality" outside the court after hearing the ruling on same-sex marriage in Tokyo.

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

What We're Watching: US-Japan send mixed LGBTQ signals, China + Russia rattle South Korea, Congress hits diversity milestone, baguettes get UNESCO nod

US & Japan make same-sex marriage waves

As the US steps forward (a bit) in protecting LGBTQ rights, Japan digs in its heels on the same issue — with a silver lining. On Tuesday night, a filibuster-proof majority of American senators passed a bill to enshrine the right to same-sex marriage in federal law. It repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed US states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, although states will not be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Just hours later, a Tokyo court upheld Japan's ban on gay marriages by ruling against four couples who sued for discrimination. But there's a caveat: the same court admitted that the ban is a violation of human rights. What do these two developments mean on opposite sides of the world? In the US, passing the bill — which still needs a House vote, likely next week — was a rare show of bipartisanship in a culture-war issue like same-sex marriage, which many fear is the Supreme Court's next target after ending the federal right to an abortion. In Japan, the ruling might put pressure on Japanese lawmakers to finally give in and legalize same-sex marriages in the only G-7 country where it's still verboten. That would be a big shift for conservative Asia, where same-sex marriages are only legal in progressive Taiwan.

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