On Valentine’s Day, 13 LGBT couples in Japan filed lawsuits against the government demanding that same-sex marriage be made legal. While same-sex marriage is not technically prohibited in Japan, current laws are interpreted as allowing marriage only between a man and a woman.

The LGBT equal rights movement in Japan has progressed more slowly than in other countries because the pressure toward conformity is strong. Many LGBT people hide their sexuality for fear of discrimination. However, there is evidence that support is growing for broader LGBT rights in Japan.

Last year, Logo and Viacom released the results of the ILGA-RIWI 2017 “Global Attitudes Survey on LGBTI People,” a poll of over 116,000 online individuals in 77 countries, including Japan.

The study found that support for same-sex marriage is on the rise, with 40% of respondents agreeing that same-sex marriage should be legal. This was up from 35% one year earlier. Young adults were particularly open to the idea – 52% of those aged 18 to 24 support same-sex marriage, compared with 43% of people 25 to 34 and 38% of those over 35.

One of the key findings from our global study was that knowing an LGBT person goes a long way toward improving attitudes toward the LGBT community overall. This held true in Japan as well. Among Japanese people who know an LGBT person, that individual is a family member or close friend for 62%. Those who know an LGBT person were almost twice as likely as those who don’t to say their feelings toward the LGBT community had grown more favorable over the past 5 years – and that knowing an LGBT person was the main influence.

However, only 29% of total respondents in Japan said they know someone who is romantically or sexually attracted to people of the same sex. Close to half (46%) did not know anyone fitting that description.

Most LGBT respondents in Japan are not open with family and close friends about their sexuality, and those who have come out are selective about sharing this information. Only 12% said that all of their family and friends are aware of their same-sex attraction. A quarter (26%) said some are aware.

While a majority of LGBT people in Japan believe that attitudes toward sexual diversity in their country are staying the same (55%), more feel that things are improving (32%) rather than worsening (13%).

Given that most in Japan do not believe they know anyone in the LGBT community, other sources are important for changing attitudes. Among those who did not know an LGBT person but believed their feelings had improved over the last 5 years, 25% cited news coverage as their biggest influence.

Since news is so important in shifting attitudes in Japan, this lawsuit that’s made headlines around the world has the potential to be a catalyst toward greater change. Between that and the country’s widening support for same-sex marriage, we hope that we’ll continue to see strides toward LGBT acceptance in Japan.