While Japan currently upholds laws against same-sex marriages, a notable shift is underway. Starting in April 2022, Tokyo has taken a progressive step by granting official recognition to same-sex couples. This landmark decision marks the beginning of a trend, as various cities across the country are gradually acknowledging and validating same-sex partnerships.
Same-sex couples still cannot marry in Japan, although homosexuality is legal since 1880.
Last March, the Sapporo court ruled that LGBTQ couples should be entitled to equal marriage rights and that the ban to marry was “unconstitutional.” This decision has not yet been acted upon, but it’s a landmark legal first for Japan and marks an important step forward in advancing the acceptance of same-sex couples across all aspects of society.
While no progress is being made on the national level, more and more municipalities are recognizing same-sex unions. The latest cities to recognize same-sex unions are Fukuoka, Osaka, and Tokyo.
Indeed, in March this year, Fukuoka began issuing same-sex partnership certificates to same-sex couples.
Then in April, Osaka decided it will do the same thing.
Finally, for Tokyo, the capital of Japan and home to 14 million people, including many LGBTQ individuals, the change began in March 2015 when Shibuya Ward set up a same-sex partnership for its LGBTQ residents. A few months later, in November 2015, Setagaya Ward did it too.
The Tokyo government has just announced that they will recognize same-sex partnerships. It means all the benefits associated with marriage will now extend to these pairs, which is wonderful news!
The local assembly overwhelmingly passed this initiative with no opposition.
While there are many areas in which same-sex couples still lag behind their counterparts with opposite-sex spouses, these partnerships are the first step towards equality.
They may not have legal standing, but they allow same-sex couples to access some benefits that married heterosexual ones enjoy while waiting for the legalization of same-sex marriage.