Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward has said it may follow Shibuya’s lead in recognizing long-term same-sex couples, days after the neighboring district announced a vote on the matter.

Mayor Nobuto Hosaka of Setagaya, Tokyo’s most populous ward, said Shibuya’s move to consider declaring such relationships as “equivalent to marriage” was a precedent which prompted Setagaya to examine what it can do to aid its own residents.

His words were seen as a further blossoming of municipal understanding of the needs of sexual minorities.

Hosaka was speaking during a coming-of-age ceremony for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youths on Sunday, said an official in the Setagaya Ward Office.

Shibuya’s proposal, announced Thursday, was widely hailed as groundbreaking. Although it would not be legally binding and still requires approval by the municipal assembly, it would alleviate some of the discrimination and hardship experienced by sexual minorities in a largely conservative society. Shibuya assembly members will vote on the measure during a session slated to convene in early March.

“We will strive to create a society that values diversity and respects human rights,” Hosaka said separately on Twitter on Sunday.

Aya Kamikawa, a transgender Setagaya assemblywoman, is reportedly also planning to submit a petition to Hosaka in early March calling on the ward to follow Shibuya’s lead. Kamikawa was not immediately available for comment.

In response to a question by Kamikawa at a plenary assembly session in September, Hosaka reaffirmed his ward’s commitment to rooting out prejudice and discrimination against sexual minorities, including homosexuals and those diagnosed with gender identity disorder.

Hosaka stressed the need to kick-start debate on how to safeguard their human rights, adding that he would ask officials to examine existing initiatives both in Japan and worldwide as the ward determines what it can do to recognize its homosexual couples.

Setagaya is known for sensitivity to its LGBT residents, and activists credit it with a series of past measures to meet their concerns incrementally.

In 2003, it removed a male/female gender box from some official documents, recognizing that sexuality doesn’t always match gender.

The ward also operates a counseling hotline catering to sexual minorities and others, and holds an annual seminar for its officials on LGBT equality.

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