KOBE - The city of Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, on Wednesday began issuing certificates recognizing same-sex partnerships as equivalent to marriage, the fourth local government in Japan to do so.
The city of Naha in Okinawa Prefecture is expected to follow suit in July.
The Takarazuka Municipal Government is offering the documents to people aged 20 or older. Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards and the city of Iga, Mie Prefecture, already issue such documents.
The government in Takarazuka — home to the legendary eponymous all-female musical troupe — will provide papers authenticating partnership oaths by same-sex couples even if one of the pair lives outside the city, as long as he or she plans to move to the municipality.
Same-sex marriages are not legal in Japan, and such couples often face discrimination in looking for housing or visiting partners in hospitals on the grounds that they are not relatives.
The Takarazuka Municipal Government is also planning to revise an ordinance so same-sex couples can live together in apartment buildings run by the city.
Until now this has not been permitted because they are not family members.
A Takarazuka official said the municipality aims to create an environment in which sexual minorities can live without discrimination.
Separately, the municipal government opened a hotline Wednesday through which a nonprofit organization offers consultations on sexuality issues between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.