As activists battle for national recognition, Tokyo’s governor said that the city will move to recognize same-sex partnerships, making it the largest city in Japan to do so.
The only country in the Group of Seven that does not recognize same-sex marriages is Japan, whose constitution states that “marriage should be only with the mutual agreement of both sexes.”
Local governments around the country have begun to recognize same-sex partnerships in recent years, and campaigners have launched lawsuits in an attempt to persuade the federal government to change course.
“We will draught a fundamental concept to recognize same-sex couples this fiscal year in response to the wishes of Tokyo residents and individuals concerned by this issue,” Governor Yuriko Koike declared late Tuesday.
She went on to say that the policy would be implemented by the end of the following fiscal year, which ends in March 2023.
In a tweet, the activist organization Marriage for All Japan expressed its delight at the news, but cautioned that “partnership does not have the same legal effects as marriage.”
They added, “National government, hurry up on (recognizing same-sex) marriage!”
The Shibuya district of Tokyo was the first in Japan to issue symbolic “partnership” certificates to same-sex couples in 2015.
Many cities have followed suit, with activists claiming that 110 local governments now recognize same-sex partnerships, providing couples rights such as visiting a partner in the hospital and renting a home together.
However, not all LGBT couples in Japan live in places where such certifications are available, and even those who do are occasionally ignored.
Last year, more than a dozen couples throughout Japan filed lawsuits contesting the government’s refusal to recognize gay marriage as constitutional.
A court in northern Sapporo ruled in March that Japan’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage is illegal, a decision that activists welcomed as a huge win.
The majority of Japanese people support same-sex marriage, according to polls, but the conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been hesitant to implement reforms.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has steered clear of controversial social topics, saying during his party’s leadership campaign this year that he had “not reached the stage of recognizing same-sex marriage.”
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