Japanese City 1st to Recognize Same-sex and Common-law Couples

A ceremony was held Tuesday in the city of Chiba southeast of Tokyo to issue official certificates to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) partners as well as to mixed-gender common-law couples. Six couples received their certificates from the city's mayor, Toshihito Kumagai.

Since 2015, several municipalities across the nation, including the cities of Sapporo, Fukuoka, and Osaka, as well as the Tokyo wards of Shibuya and Setagaya, have announced the offering of partnership certificates to sexual minorities. According to the city, Chiba is the first municipality in the country to have a recognition system that goes beyond different-sex common-law partners to recognize LGBT couples. Couples applying for the certificate need to meet a basic set of requirements, including both partners being above 20 years old, unmarried, and that they either live in or plan to move to Chiba in the near future.

Although same-sex marriages are not yet legalized in Japan and these kind of special partnership certificates do not confer legal status, couples nonetheless are entitled to certain civil rights such as hospital visitation, signing of surgical consent forms, and applying for public housing as a couple.

Social awareness about the LGBT community and members' rights have been on the rise in Japan over the past several years. A recently published survey conducted by advertising company Dentsu Inc. revealed that 68.5 per cent of the respondents either knew what the term 'LGBT' stands for or had heard of it – a 30.9 per cent increase compared to 2015. Moreover, 78.4 per cent surveyed said that they approve or would likely to approve same-sex marriages.