A Tokyo ward has taken a major step toward realizing the dreams of Japan's same-sex couples by proposing to issue certificates that recognize such relationships as "equivalent to marriage."

Shibuya Ward pledged the measure as part of a draft statute Thursday to boost gender equality and strengthen human rights for sexual minorities.

The statute will be presented to the municipal assembly in early March. If passed, it will take force on April 1, with the certificates appearing sometime in fiscal 2015, said ward official Shigeru Saito.