Words can wield power for a long time after they’ve been spoken.
A speech regarding same-sex marriage made by former New Zealand National MP Maurice Williamson has found popularity four years after it was delivered, as a rational rallying cry for marriage equality in Japan.
A clip of Williamson’s speech has now gone viral in Japan with over 170,000 retweets at the time of writing, picked up by BuzzFeed.
So, why now? The Twitter video was posted as a direct response to remarks made by the General Council Chairman of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, Wataru Takeshita. He was widely criticised for recently saying that he was “opposed” to the idea that state guests’ same-sex partners should be invited to events hosted by Empress Michiko and Emperor Akihito.
“It doesn’t fit with Japan’s traditions,” he said, reported by The Japan Times. Takeshita later told media that he regretted making the comments, but as the Times noted, “He added that discussions should be made on this issue at some time in the future.”
In Japan, LGBTQ people can face significant discrimination in their homes and at work, and same-sex marriage is not yet legal in the country — municipal governments in cities like Tokyo have recently started issuing same-sex union certificates declared as equivalent to marriage, but really, this is not true equality.
In response to Takeshita’s remarks, Twitter user @bulldog_noh8 dug up a speech made by Williamson, made during the third reading and vote on the Marriage Equality Bill at Parliament House on April 17, 2013 in Wellington.
“The speech was praised in the world at that time. For young people who do not know,” @bulldog_noh8 wrote, posting the video with Japanese subtitles.
Williamson’s (frankly, hilarious) speech proves a rational rallying cry for equality, particularly aimed at people opposed to legalising same-sex marriage.
“We are not declaring nuclear war on a Foreign State. We are not bringing a virus in that could wipe out our agricultural sector for ever. We are allowing two people who love each other to have that recognized, and I can’t see what’s wrong with that for love nor money,” he said.
Williamson’s speech struck a chord with many people in Japan, following Takeshita’s comments, and the speech proved hot property on Twitter.
“Since this morning, I’ve had tears. Thank you.”
— pear (@pear_mountain) November 25, 2017
“It was a very wonderful speech. It does not deny the opponent.”
— FX始めました (@FX133320223) November 26, 2017
Williamson was obviously psyched, gaining new followers and many tweets of thanks.
I am so happy to see such a huge increase in the number of new followers in the last few hours – many of them coming from Japan. I don’t know what’s driving it but I’m delighted. For the record: My oldest son Simon Kenya is half Japanese so I’m proud of the association. Welcome.
— Maurice Williamson (@williamson_nz) November 26, 2017
Thank you for the moving speech.
Japan also needs to change, for our future peace.
I believe that the video gave us some courage to become brave for a next step.
— シャスタ デイジー (@shastadaisy1129) November 27, 2017
Hi from Japan, I happened to watch your speech and I’m so thankful for this luck. I am not gay but your speech changed the way I see the world completely🙏🏻✨I started to think more abt ppl struggling to live their lives just the way they are even today. Thank you.
— Mrs. R 💎⁂ (@eiga_girl) November 27, 2017
New Zealand’s neighbours in Australia are hopefully about to get their own version of Williamson’s speech, with the country’s first bill to legalise same-sex marriage to be passed by the Australian government in the coming weeks.