LGBTQ groups cheer Tokyo’s same-sex partnership as a big step forward Reuters

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© Reuters. File photo: Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo, Japan, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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Lies by Elaine

TOKYO (Reuters)-Japan’s LGBTQ rights activists praised Tokyo’s move to introduce a same-sex couple system on Wednesday as a major step towards equality in the only G7 country that does not fully recognize same-sex marriage.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said on Tuesday that the Japanese capital will develop a framework to allow partnerships to be established early next year, with a view to legalizing them in the fiscal year beginning in April 2022. Extending the system to Tokyo may eventually benefit more than 50 people as a percentage of the national population.

Under this system, same-sex couples can register their relationship and get some privileges enjoyed by married couples, such as renting a place to live together and obtaining hospital visits.

Although it did not achieve legal marriage, Tokyo’s move to adopt a partnership system was seen as an important step towards legalizing same-sex unions in a country where the constitution still defines marriage as based on “mutual agreement between the sexes.”

“This is amazing news,” said Yasuzawa Yasawa, head of Japan’s main service department at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) and a board member of the radical organization All Japan Marriage.

“Some conservatives expressed concern that even if these partnerships are merely token pieces of paper, they may undermine Japan’s traditions or the traditional Japanese family system. I hope this will be an opportunity to prove otherwise.”

In 2015, Shibuya, Tokyo was the first place in Japan to introduce a partnership system. According to Nishiiro Diversity, the campaign organization, the system already covers 41% of Japan’s population, and its expansion to Tokyo means that more than half of the country may benefit.

For a long time, activists have been lobbying the entire capital city to adopt the system and stepping up their efforts before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which are postponed to this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There may be restraint on the national government, and many ruling party lawmakers are reluctant to do so,” said Takeharu Kato, the lawyer in charge of the landmark court case in March, which called the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Kato and others said that although Tokyo as a whole did not adopt a partnership system before the Olympics, the diversity-oriented Olympics helped influence public opinion.

A recent poll conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government of Tokyo residents found that 70% of respondents support same-sex partnerships.

“I am sure that the Olympics will have an impact because Tokyo has been considering what kind of legacy they should leave,” said LGBTQ rights activist Gon Matsunaka.

Another motivation is Tokyo’s interest in establishing itself as a major international center and attracting foreign companies, many of which place greater emphasis on LGBTQ rights.

Yanagisawa of Goldman Sachs said that as part of Governor Koike’s preparation for her announcement, she talked with foreign business leaders who said Tokyo was lagging behind in this regard.

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

“We provide our own employee benefits on the basis of national regulations to try to balance the system, but the possibilities are limited. Obviously not every company can do this.”

The next goal is to make marriage possible, although it may require more places to pass same-sex partnership regulations, creating enough pressure that the central government can no longer ignore it.

“Of course I am very happy,” Kato said. “But this is just a waypoint on a long road. We need to use it to promote real marriage.”

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