Sapporo drafts partnership rules for LGBT couples

Kyodo

The Sapporo Municipal Government has unveiled draft rules for officially recognizing same-sex partnerships between gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples.

Not only would Sapporo be the country’s first major city to set such rules, it would also be the first municipality to certify partnerships between heterosexual couples with gender-identity disorder, municipal officials said Tuesday.

Under the draft rules, Sapporo residents 20 and over would be eligible for the status. Upon receiving what would be called a “partnership vow,” the municipal government would issue the couple a receipt and a copy of their vows.

While the certification would not confer special legal rights or obligations, the couple would be able to become recipients of life insurance money and enjoy various discounts for family members, such as with mobile phone contracts, according to the city.

The municipal government briefed assembly members about the draft rules Tuesday. It plans to begin the program at the start of the new fiscal year in April.

Some local governments in Tokyo and other areas in the country have so far recognized same-sex partnerships.

Sapporo’s draft rules define eligible couples as being in a relationship in which “either or both sides are sexual minorities who recognize each other as a life partner and promise to cooperate with each other economically, physically and mentally in their daily life.”

Ken Suzuki, a professor at Tokyo’s Meiji University and a leader of a citizens’ group that has lobbied Sapporo for the rules, praised the proposal, saying “It is an advanced program.”

He added that he hopes the Sapporo government will show what type of administrative services it can provide to certified couples.

Efforts are being made in Japan to eliminate discrimination against sexual minorities amid growing recognition of LGBT rights among the public.

In April 2015, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, became the first place in the country to recognize same-sex partnerships as equivalent to marriage, passing an ordinance for issuance of ward certificates to such couples. Several municipalities, including Iga, Mie Prefecture, Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, have followed suit.