Another ward in Tokyo to recognize same-sex couples

Kyodo, Staff Report

Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward said it will start issuing certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships as early as November to support the rights of sexual minorities, becoming the second municipal government in Japan to take such a step.

The certificates will not be legally binding, but a Setagaya official said Wednesday the measure is expected to “help eliminate disadvantages” against gay couples. Same-sex marriage has not been legalized in Japan.

In March, Shibuya Ward in Tokyo became Japan’s first municipality to adopt an ordinance to certify same-sex partnerships as equivalent to legal marriages. Shibuya aims to start issuing papers in October, calling for real estate firms and hospitals not to discriminate against gay couples.

In Setagaya, the certificates will be issued to same-sex couples aged 20 or older who pledge to be in a partnership. At least one of them must be a Setagaya resident or have a plan to move to the ward.

Same-sex couples often complain that they are not treated equally compared to their heterosexual counterparts in the eyes of the law. The failure to acknowledge same-sex relationships can pose problems when, for example, trying to visit a critically ill partner in the hospital. Such a visit may not be allowed, as visitation is generally only allowed for relatives.

They also face discrimination in Japan when trying to move into apartments together.

Article 24 of the Constitution is often interpreted as banning same-sex matrimony, as it identifies marriage as “based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.” Some legal experts are opposed to this view, however, arguing the clause was meant to declare the principle of gender equality between married partners.