The mayor of Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, has reaffirmed his municipality’s determination to recognize same-sex partnerships despite opposition by conservatives. The move would be the first of its kind in Japan.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Monday, Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara restated the ward’s commitment to giving people in same-sex unions certificates declaring their relationship to be “equivalent to marriage.”

Earlier this month, Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, warned that Shibuya’s move could have an impact on “the foundation of Japan’s societal system and order.”

Kuwahara was undaunted: “I have no intention of withdrawing this proposal just because the national government is opposed to it. I think there comes a time the national government has to change its view about this issue.”

The proposal that same-sex partnerships be recognized as equal to marriage within Shibuya was submitted to the ward’s assembly earlier in March. The assembly will vote on it at the end of the month.

Kuwahara did not comment on the chances of the statute passing, but he acknowledged that LDP-endorsed assembly members oppose the measure. He expressed the hope that non-LDP members will override their opposition.

“But even if the ordinance does not pass the assembly, we want to set up a place in the ward office where people can go and consult about their sexual minority issues. So we will make efforts to support (sexual minorities) regardless of whether this statute passes,” Kuwahara said.

Asked if he is gay, the mayor laughed and said: “No, I don’t see myself as gay at all. But I want to support them.”

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