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Japanese city of two million becomes biggest to recognise same-sex partnerships

Josh Jackman June 1, 2017
Japanese lesbian couple Hiroko Masuhara (L) and Koyuki Higashi display a certification paper of "partnership" after receiving it at the Shibuya ward office in Tokyo on November 5, 2015. While the certificates are not legally binding, the district hoped they would encourage hospitals and landlords to ensure same-sex couples receive similar treatment to married people. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

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Two million more people can have their same-sex relationships legally recognised from today.

Sapporo became the first major city in Japan to issue official partnership vow papers to those who wish to enter a legal same-sex union.

And the city on the northern island of Hokkaido will also recognise heterosexual relationships involving at least one non-binary person.

Japan does not recognise same-sex marriage on a national basis, but the new law will confer more rights on LGBT couples.

Any two people who are over 20 years old and live in the city can sign a partnership vow, after which they will receive copies of the vow and a document from the city indicating its legality.

A 32-year-old woman was one of the first to receive recognition of her same-sex union under the new law.

She told Japan Today that she was “delighted. I was finally able to do it.

“It may be self-satisfaction but I want other people to use the system without caring what people around them think as they can become happy.”

The official certificate the couples receive doesn’t give them any legal rights, but does ensure that they can become each other’s life insurance recipients.

And the couple will also qualify as a family for perks like discounts on mobile phone services.

In March, Sapporo finished a public consultation that led to an overwhelming 1,500 people writing in to support the proposal.

Opponents who wrote in were largely concerned that the step could exacerbate the country’s already low birth rate.

The law was originally intended to come into effect in April, but it was postponed for the public consultation – which made many couples in the city nervous that it would never be implemented.

In April, it was revealed that children in Japan will not be taught about LGBT issues for at least 10 years after the government decided against including it in the curriculum.

But a record number of people attended Tokyo Pride in May, following a series of steps towards LGBT equality in the country.

In March, for the first time, the country legislated to protect against bullying based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The country has also seen its first trans man elected into public office, as Tomoya Hosoda was voted in as a councillor in the city of Iruma.

A city in Japan became the first to recognise a first same-sex couple as foster parents, with the gay couple in Osaka officially fostering a teenage boy.

More: Asia, hokkaido, Japan, Japan, Law, LGBT rights, same sex couples, same-sex partnerships, Sapporo, sexuality

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