Mickey Mouse hosts gay weddings in Japan

Just days after US President Barack Obama came out in favour of gay marriage, another supporter of homosexual unions emerged in Japan: Mickey Mouse.

Despite their having no legal status, same sex couples are able to hold fairytale wedding ceremonies at hotels inside the popular Tokyo Disney Resort, including at the Cinderella Castle, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday.

News of the unions came to light when Koyuki Higashi, 27, enquired about marrying her female partner at the resort.

A member of staff who answered the call said there would be no problem with their marrying, provided they dressed "like a man and a woman", Higashi wrote on her blog.

The staff member explained a same-sex wedding would create "repercussions" among visitors to the park if both brides were wearing wedding dresses or both grooms wore tuxedoes, the blog added.

However, a few days later, the resort operator got back in touch to say their initial response had been wrong and gay couples were free to mix and match their attire.

"We have never refused an application for a same-sex wedding at hotels here," a spokeswoman at Milial Resort Hotels, a subsidiary of Tokyo Disney Resort, told AFP on Tuesday.

"One of our staff members was mistaken when explaining about outfits for a same-sex wedding," she said.

But she added gay and lesbian couples were not allowed to exchange marriage vows at the onsite chapel "because of Christian teaching".

Higashi and her bride-to-be, identified on the blog only as Hiroko, have now visited Tokyo Disneyland, where they met Mickey Mouse to give him the good news.

"Mickey first looked surprised to hear that we are a 'couple of girls'," Higashi wrote. "But we said we were there to thank him because same-sex weddings can be held at the Disney Resort, and he celebrated with us."

It is not known if Higashi and her partner will go ahead with a wedding at the Cinderella Castle, which costs 7.5 million yen ($95,000).

Homosexuality in Japan is widely accepted but not openly discussed.

While gays and lesbians are unlikely to encounter outright hostility, there are few rights built into law for same sex couples and there is little public debate on gay marriage.

Last week Obama became the first sitting US president to openly back gay marriage, an issue that sharply divides America.

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