LGBTQ groups cheer Tokyo’s gay partnership move as a big step

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attends a press conference, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attends a news conference, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Japan’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, in Tokyo, Japan, May 24 November 2020. REUTERS / Issei Kato / File Photo

December 8, 2021

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s LGBTQ rights activists on Wednesday hailed Tokyo’s move to adopt a same-sex partnership system as a big step forward in their fight for equal rights. they are in the only G7 country that does not fully recognize same-sex marriage.

Under a plan announced Tuesday by Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, partnerships will be allowed early next year and legalized in the fiscal year starting April 2022, significantly expanding the number of partnerships. the Japanese can benefit.

The partnership system allows same-sex partners to register their relationship and get some of the privileges that married couples enjoy, such as being allowed to rent a place to live together and having the right to visit at the hospital.

Although it is not a legal marriage, Tokyo’s move to adopt a partnership system is seen as an important step towards legalizing same-sex relationships in a country where the Constitution still defines marriage. is based on “consent of both sexes”.

“This is great news,” said Masa Yanagisawa, head of Prime Services Japan at Goldman Sachs and a board member of the “Marriage for All Japan” activist group.

“Some conservatives have voiced concern that while these partnerships are merely symbolic pieces of paper, they could erode Japanese traditions or the traditional family system of Japan. Japan. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to prove otherwise.”

In 2015, Tokyo’s Shibuya ward was the first in Japan to introduce a partner system. The system already covers 41 percent of Japan’s population, and an expansion to Tokyo means more than half the country is likely to benefit, according to advocacy group Nijiiro Diversity.

Activists have long lobbied for the whole capital to adopt the system and ramp up such efforts ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, due to the coronavirus pandemic being delayed until this summer.

Takeharu Kato, a lawyer in charge of a landmark case in March where a ban on same-sex marriage was ruled “unconstitutional,” said the government may have shown restraint in expanding partnership system due to “the fact that a lot of ruling party legislators are reluctant about this.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told parliament that the introduction of same-sex marriage would require “careful consideration”.

“The introduction of a system that allows same-sex marriage will be a matter of getting to the core of how families should be in Japan,” he said.


While Tokyo generally did not adopt a partnership system before the Olympics, the Games, with its focus on diversity, helped sway public opinion, Kato and others said.

A recent poll of Tokyoites conducted by the capital government found that 70% of respondents support same-sex relationships.

“I’m sure the Olympics have had an impact because Tokyo has been thinking about what kind of legacy they should leave behind,” said LGBTQ rights activist Gon Matsunaka.

Another driver is Tokyo’s interest in branding as a major international hub and attracting foreign companies, many of which place more emphasis on LGBTQ rights.

According to Goldman’s Yanagisawa, as part of preparing for Governor Koike’s announcement, she spoke with foreign business leaders who argue that Tokyo is behind on that front.

“In my view as a Goldman Sachs employee, we want to attract international talent but Japan is always at a disadvantage,” he added.

“We provide benefits to our employees on the basis of national regulations to try to balance the system but there is a limit to what is possible and obviously not every company has it. can do this.”

Ordinary Japanese, such as business owner Yoko Namiki, welcomed the move, calling it “revolutionary”.

The next goal, activists say, is to make marriage possible, although this may require more local areas to adopt same-sex partnership regulations, creating exert enough pressure that the national government cannot ignore it.

“Of course I’m happy,” said lawyer Kato. “But this is just a reference point on a long road. We need to use it to move towards real marriage.”

(Additional reporting by Rikako Maruyama, Kohei Miyazaki and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa) LGBTQ groups cheer Tokyo’s gay partnership move as a big step


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