SAPPORO – The municipal government of Sapporo has said it plans to officially recognize same-sex partnerships between gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples from June, becoming the first major city in Japan to do so.
The local government initially planned to begin the program in April but decided to first set a publicity period to inform the public. The timing of the introduction was announced during a municipal assembly committee session on Tuesday.
About 1,500 people have expressed opinions welcoming the program, according to the city, while some opposed it. Among such opponents, there was a view that the program would accelerate the nation’s declining birthrate.
Under draft rules unveiled in January, those eligible for the status need to be city residents and at least 20 years old. Upon receiving what would be called a “partnership vow,” the local government would issue the couple a receipt and a copy of their vow.
While the certification would not confer special legal rights or obligations on the couple, they would be able to become recipients of life insurance money and given access to various discounts provided to family members, such as on mobile phone contracts, according to the city.
“I was anxious about a postponement (of the program’s introduction),” said 42-year-old Kumiko Kudo, who lives with her same-sax partner in the city.
“But now I feel relieved as (the government) made clear when it will start,” she said after sitting in on the committee session.
Efforts are being made in Japan to eliminate discrimination against sexual minorities amid growing public recognition of LGBT rights.
In April 2015, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward 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 have since followed suit.