Tokyo district votes to recognize same-sex couples


Anthony Popenoe

“Local governments used to behave as if sexual minorities didn’t exist in their communities,” Japanese politician and openly gay individual Taiga Ishikawa said in ‘The Japan Times’. “Cases overseas suggest that local municipalities’ move to grant same-sex couples more legitimate status sometimes affects national policies. So I’m very happy about it.”

Anthony Popenoe, Staff Writer

Japan’s capital city’s Shibuya Ward plans to vote to issue certificates to same-sex couples that are “equivalent to marriage.”

“In reality, a number of same-sex couples live together and are tied by a strong bond of love. But they cannot get legally married,” Japanese newspaper ‘The Asahi Shimbun’ said in an editorial.

“We welcome Shibuya Ward’s attempt to support gay couples by doing what it can as a local government. It is a bold and important step forward.”

According to a poll by the same publication, 52 percent of Japanese people support the “proof of partnership” certificates. Another poll showed that 41 percent believe same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry while only 37 percent oppose.

“Shibuya is an international community, so it is only natural that we have international levels of diversity,” ward assembly member Ken Hasebe, who proposed the measure, said in ‘NY Times’.

Although it lacks legal significance, officials hope the certificates will promote awareness for LGBT individuals as well as decrease discrimination. The proposed statute encourages equal treatment for all citizens and includes a provision to publicize the names of discriminatory businesses.

“Prejudice remains deeply ingrained in Japanese society. But I hope this move will become the first step to turn Japan into a society more accepting of the idea of diversity,” LGBT activist Koyuki Higashi said in ‘The Japan Times’.

The certification proposal will be reviewed in March. Similarly, same-sex marriages await review by the US Supreme Court later this year.