Sapporo will become the largest city in Japan to recognize same-sex couples.
Sapporo, which has a population of nearly two million people and is the largest city on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, has announced plans to implement a system next year recognizing same-sex couples as having a marital relationship status. The new system will provide documents recognizing same-sex relationships to same-sex couples who swear an oath of their partnership. However, the documents will not be legally binding and will only offer same-sex couples opportunities such as being recognized as partners when buying life insurance or receiving family phone plan discounts.
In November last year, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward and Setagaya Ward both announced they would be issuing Japan’s first same-sex partnership certificates. But again, these certificates are not legally binding and serve only as a means of encouraging businesses and governments to recognize these relationships.
▼ Participants in the 2015 Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade supporting LGBT rights in Japan
In recent years, LGBT issues have been gathering recognition in Japan and this is a positive next step, although it appears there may be a long way to go before same-sex couples are legally recognized to the same capacity as male/female couples.
In December last year Japan released the results of its first national same-sex marriage survey. The survey found that only around half of the respondents were supportive of same-sex marriage.
▼ Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade
There have been other positive steps though in the past couple of years with businesses offering wedding ceremony services to same-sex couples, and companies such as Panasonic recognizing same-sex marriages.
What do you think of Sapporo City’s move to recognize same-sex unions without making the recognition legally binding? A good first step or a plan that doesn’t go far enough?