TOKYO – The northern city of Sapporo will soon become the first Japanese metropolis to recognize same-sex civil unions, the municipal government announced Tuesday.
Japan’s fifth-largest city, located on the northern island of Hokkaido, will begin to legally recognize LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) unions starting in June, the local government decided in a plenary session on Tuesday.
Municipal authorities will issue civil-union certificates, which, though not legally binding, will allow same-sex couples to exercise certain rights and access some services in a country that does not legally recognize same-sex marriages.
Sapporo’s initiative is yet another step toward the legalization of these unions after Shibuya (one of Tokyo’s 23 municipalities) became the first local authority to recognize same-sex marriages in 2015.
Several other municipalities, as well as the city of Iga in the central Mie prefecture, have followed in the footsteps of Shibuya, while many large Japanese companies have recently begun to implement labor regulations to ensure homosexuals have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
The Japanese constitution says marriage “shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes,” while the nation’s Civil Code affords no rights to same-sex couples.