Sapporo aims to become the latest city in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships as equivalent to marriage to address discrimination against sexual minorities, local officials said Thursday.

The capital of Hokkaido plans to draw up guidelines by next March with an eye to launching the certification of gay couples by the end of March 2018, the official said.

Other municipalities throughout the nation have introduced similar arrangements, including Tokyo's Shibuya and Setagaya wards, and the cities of Iga in Mie Prefecture, Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture, and Naha in Okinawa Prefecture.

Sapporo hopes to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, and the Olympic Charter bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Once in place, same-sex couples in Sapporo may be eligible for a range of benefits including eligibility to receive life insurance payouts.

Sapporo Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto received a request in June from a civic group supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for establishing a system to recognize such partnerships.

With a population of nearly 2 million, the city has been studying ways to introduce such a system based on precedents set by places like Shibuya Ward.