Tokyo City Hall issues first same-sex union certificates

Tokyo City Hall issues first same-sex union certificates


Tokyo City Hall on Tuesday began issuing marriage certificates to people of the same sex who live or work in the Japanese capital, a measure long overdue in a country where gay marriage does not exist not. 

Japan is indeed the only G7 country that does not recognize same-sex unions, its Constitution providing that “marriage can only take place with the mutual consent of both sexes”.

Tokyo city certificates allow LGBTQ partners to be treated as married couples for certain public services related to housing, health or social welfare.

Shibuya Ward Hall , a trendy district of Tokyo, was the first in Japan to offer such a certificate, in 2015. More than 200 municipalities or local authorities have since followed.

These certificates are far from conferring the same rights as a legal marriage, but the new status proposed by the Tokyo city hall nevertheless represents progress for Miki and Katie, two women who for a long time had no official certificate of their living together.

“My biggest fear was that we would be treated as if we were strangers to each other in an emergency,” Miki, a 36-year-old Japanese girl, told AFP. years, alongside his American girlfriend Katie, 31. They preferred to be identified only by their first names.

In the absence of a certificate, each used to slip a note into her wallet with the other's contact details, just in case. “But it seemed to us that official documents validated by local authorities would be more effective”, explains Miki.

Big step forward”

In As of October 28, 137 couples have already applied for a union certificate, Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, said last week.

Hopes are high that issuing such certificates, which apply to both Tokyo residents and people living in the suburbs but working in the capital, will help tackle anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Japan.

With this new system in Tokyo, “I sincerely hope that we can accelerate efforts to create a society where the rights of sexual minorities can be protected and made more equal,” LGBTQ activist Soyoka Yamamoto said during a a press conference.

She and her partner Yoriko have lived together for over ten years. They received their union certificate from Tokyo City Hall on Tuesday morning.

“I hope we can now access various places and services, without having to explain our relationship,” Yoriko said in calling Tokyo's decision a “big step forward”.

A 2021 poll by state broadcaster NHK showed that 57% of respondents were in favor of same-sex marriage.

However, the Liberal Democratic Party in power (PLD, conservative right) is very wary of a possible legislative reform in this direction.

And the legal debates on the subject seem set to last. Last June, a court in Osaka (West) dismissed three same-sex couples who had filed a complaint against the State, ruling that the non-recognition of gay marriage was not unconstitutional.

Conversely, in 2021, a court in Sapporo (North) found that the current situation violated the right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution.