Tokyo issues long-awaited same-sex union certificates | Japan

The Tokyo metropolitan government began issuing partnership certificates to same-sex couples living and working in the capital on Tuesday, a move that has been long-awaited in a country that still does not allow same-sex marriage.

The status does not carry the same rights as marriage, but it does allow LGBTQ couples to be treated as married couples for some public services in areas such as housing, health and welfare.

More than 200 smaller local authorities in Japan have already taken steps to recognize same-sex couples since Tokyo’s Shibuya district pioneered the system in 2015.

As of Friday last week, 137 couples had applied for a certificate, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said.

Hopes are high among advocates that the introduction of same-sex union certificates, which cover both Tokyo residents and travelers, will help combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Tokyo. Japan.

Miki and Katie are among those who have had no official proof of their relationship.

“My biggest fear has been being treated like strangers in an emergency,” Miki told AFP.

Without a partnership certificate, the couple, who asked to be referred to by their first names, often slipped a note into their wallets with each other’s contact details.

“But these were insubstantial, and we felt that official documents certified by the local government would be more effective,” Miki said.

Classmates Katie and Miki playing with their cat at their home in Tokyo.
Miki and Katie, who for a long time had no official proof of their relationship, welcomed the partnership certificates. Photograph: Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP/Getty Images

“The more people make use of these association systems, the more our community will be encouraged to tell family and friends about their relationships, without hiding their true selves.”

In recent years, Japan has taken baby steps toward embracing sexual diversity.

More companies are now proclaiming their support for same-sex marriage, and gay characters are appearing on TV shows.

A 2021 poll by public broadcaster NHK showed that 57% of the public were in favor of same-sex marriage, compared to 37% against.

But hurdles remain, as an Osaka court ruled in June that the country’s failure to recognize same-sex unions was constitutional.

That marked a setback for activists following last year’s landmark verdict from a Sapporo court, which said the current situation violated the right to equality guaranteed by Japan’s constitution.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been cautious about the possibility of legislative changes recognizing same-sex couples at the national level.

“Some politicians have made really negative comments, like we’re mentally ill,” Katie told AFP.

“But families are not always made up of a mother, a father and two children. We should be more flexible,” he said.

The right to inheritance in the event of the death of a partner is still not guaranteed, while Katie’s lack of spouse visa status makes her ability to stay in Japan less stable.

“I feel that the level of Japanese people’s understanding of same-sex marriage is now high enough,” Miki said.

“All that remains is for politicians to take it seriously and make changes.”

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