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Wednesday, 14 October 2020 02:47

Japan: Kyoto Now Recognizes Same-Sex Couples

The city of Kyoto recognizes same-sex partnerships.

Marriage equality is not legal in Japan, but more and more cities are establishing same-sex partnerships.

The last Japanese municipality to take the plunge by enabling recognition of LGBTQ couples is Kyoto, in the west of the country.

“We Will Continue Working Hard”

Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa wanted to offer this formal recognition to same-sex couples living in his city under a “partnership oath scheme”.

This is both a political move and a genuine desire to resolve the major issue of discrimination that exists in Kyoto.

In addition, Mayor Kadokawa stressed his desire to continue the work thus initiated.

“We will continue working hard to recognize diversity in sexuality and various forms of families,” he said.

Same-sex partnerships were issued on September 1, 2020, and 20 LGBTQ couples applied during the month.

The Conditions

LGBTQ couples in Kyoto must meet certain requirements to get the partnership, but these are justified.

For example:

  • they must be both legal adults
  • one or both must be residents of the city of Kyoto
  • they may not be married or in a partnership with other individuals
  • they cannot be in a relationship that might prevent marriage under the Civil Code except for adoptive marriage, where one partner is adopted by the parents of the other partner

The Procedure

Then the procedure is quick. It is enough for the couple to:

  1. gather all the documents (family register, ...).
  2. make an appointment in an establishment of the city issuing the partnerships
  3. go to the appointment to sign the oath documents

The certificate will then be issued during the day.

More Than A Recognition

Beyond recognition, these partnerships often provide benefits that only married couples could access.

Besides official municipal recognition, the municipality of Kyoto has announced that same-sex couples will be eligible for living in city-managed housing.

It is also possible that they will receive benefit payments, although this remains to be seen for the moment.

A Movement That Is Growing In Size

As I told you, Japan has not legalized marriage equality yet and the Japanese government has no intention of moving forward on the issue. It is opposed to any legislation.

In April 2015, Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s ward, launched the first partnerships for same-sex couples to be officially recognized, and other wards did the same throughout 2015.

A year later, the movement gained momentum as cities began to recognize the unions of LGBTQ couples in turn. Sapporo became the first Japanese town to formally accept same-sex couples in April 2016.

Since then, every year, new cities have joined the movement, which now includes 57 municipalities.

They Could Join The Movement Soon

I imagine that the wait has been long and I think of other couples across Japan who hope to benefit from this partnership soon, so be aware that the movement is far from being extinguished.

7 cities (Abashiri, Hachioji, Hanno, Iruma, Kochi, Kazo, and Moroyama) and at least 9 wards (Arakawa, Chiyoda, Chuo, Katsushika, Kita, Koto, Nerima, Sumida, and Taito) are considering the matter.

I also recall that in the Ibaraki and Osaka prefectures, inter-prefectural connections have been created, enabling LGBTQ couples to move without the risk of losing their recognition.

Map of Japan showing the main cities recognizing same-sex partnerships.

There are also reciprocal recognitions between two cities in Western Japan. I had previously mentioned the reciprocity that Okayama has set up with Soja and Hiroshima, so Takamatsu and Kagawa could join this group too.

It also appears that Miura could join the Yokosuka-Zushi-Kamakura-Hayama group in the central part of the country.

As you can see, change is on the way in Japan. What used to be a local approach is now being developed at the regional level and is becoming more and more widespread.

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