The city of Chiba plans to issue nonbinding certificates recognizing same-sex as well as common-law couples starting in April next year, following similar moves by Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward and other municipalities across the nation.

Chiba will be the first municipality to offer partnership certificates beyond those recognizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples, the city says.

“I hope it can take everyone a step forward to question what a family and a partnership is about,” Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai said at a news conference Thursday.

The city had initially planned to issue certificates to LGBT couples only. But it decided to widen the scope when local LGBT groups asked that the policy not be limited to sexual minorities.

To apply, couples must be unmarried, must not be blood relatives, and must be residents of the city or have plans to move there in the near future.

“These are just preliminary requirements, which are subject to changes based on the public comments we will receive next month,” said an official at the city’s Gender Equality Division, who asked not to be named due to department policy.

The city will accept public comments from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1.

Despite the fact that the certificates are not legally binding, the city said it’s willing to ask hospitals and businesses to cooperate, with the details expected later.

That could help couples who aren’t legally married sign surgical consent forms on behalf of partners who are incapacitated and can’t speak for themselves or rent housing limited to those who are married.

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