Philip FONG / AFP
Kyoto has started recognizing same-sex partnerships, becoming the latest city in conservative Japan to give more rights to LGBTQ couples.
Under the program, same-sex couples may apply for a partnership certificate issued by the Kyoto Municipal Government as long as they are of legal age, one or both of them are a resident of the city, and are neither married nor in a partnership with other individuals, The Mainichi Times reported.
In a small ceremony kickstarting the new initiative on September 1, Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa handed certificates to five couples while 20 more have applied to receive their certificates.
“We will continue working hard to recognise diversity in sexuality and various forms of families,” Daisaku said.
The couples who took part were beaming as they posed for pictures and held the certificates in their hands.
“It was our dream to become a family together. I feel like now that wish has been granted,” one participant was quoted as saying.
Though same-sex marriage is still illegal in Japan, the “partnership system” provides a limited number of benefits given to married couples such as access to public housing, hospital visitation rights and certain employment benefits, according to GayTimes.
Members of the LGBTQ community in Japan still face discrimination at home, school, and work, according to Human Rights Watch. Japan was urged to pass an Equality Law before the 2020 Olympics, which was pushed back to next year due to the pandemic.
Last year, opposition lawmakers tabled a bill that seeks to legalize same-sex marriage, but the proposal was not debated after running into a roadblock set by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, which cited prohibitions in the constitution.
But public opinions on marriage equality have become more favorable for the LGBTQ community over the past years, with support soaring in polls.
In 2018, a poll showed that almost 80 percent of people aged between 20 and 59 said they approve or somewhat approve of same-sex marriage.
Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise gay marriage last year in a historic development.