Tokyo Begins Recognizing Same-Sex Relationships!

Tokyo made history when it began issuing certificates to same-sex couples, becoming the first municipality in a country where same-sex marriage is not considered legal.

Although the certificate does not provide the same legal rights as a marriage, it still allows same-sex couples to be treated as married couples for public services such as healthcare, social security, and housing.

Since the system was innovated by Tokyo's Shibuya district in 2015, more than 200 municipalities in Japan have already adopted the policy of recognizing same-sex relationships.

Even though the scheme has limitations in various aspects like adoption, visas, and inheritance, many LGBTQ+ couples and activists welcomed the move. Anyone who is 18 and above and either works or lives in Tokyo is eligible to apply for the certificate, including foreign nationals. Since Friday, more than 137 applications have been submitted to the Tokyo metropolitan government.

Despite being ruled by the Liberal Democratic Party, a conservative party that supports family values, Japan has taken small steps to embrace sexual diversity and recognize LGBTQ+ rights.

According to a poll conducted by the public broadcaster NHK, 57% of Japanese people support same-sex marriage, with 37% opposing it. In addition, more Japanese firms are supporting same-sex marriage, and Japanese TV networks are now starting to feature more dramas with LGBTQ+ characters.

The United States, Japan's most prominent and closest ally, welcomed the move by Tokyo.

"We believe deeply that all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity, should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are, no matter whom they love,"Ned Price, spokesman for the State Department, said in a statement.

Still, the LGBTQ+ community in Japan faces many obstacles despite growing support from the public. Legal protections for LGBTQ+ members in the country are still lacking, and in June, an Osaka court ruled that the government not recognizing same-sex marriages was constitutional. This verdict sharply contrasted with a Sapporo court ruling last year, saying Japan's failure to legalize same-sex marriage violated the constitution's right to equality.

Furthermore, many Japanese politicians expressed hesitation to make necessary changes, while some even had negative views towards the LGBTQ+ community. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida remained cautious about passing legislation to recognize same-sex marriage nationally. Noboru Watanabe, a local assemblyman and a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was criticized for calling same-sex marriage "disgusting."

While many LGBTQ+ members and activists were happy with the policy, many acknowledge that the certificate system is not the end for gay rights, but only the beginning, and hopes that it would catalyze to transform Japan into a society that protects the equal rights of sexual minorities.

As of now, same-sex marriage in Japan remains prohibited, similar to most East Asian countries like China and South Korea. Taiwan remains the first and only country in the region to recognize same-sex marriages officially.

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