Western Japan city Takarazuka to recognize same-sex partnership

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KOBE  — A city in western Japan said Nov. 30 it will join two other municipalities in Tokyo in issuing certificates recognizing same-sex partnership as being equivalent to marriage, in a bid to address discrimination against sexual minorities.

The city of Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture, home to Japan’s famous all-female musical troupe, said it will start issuing papers authenticating partnership oaths by same-sex couples in June. Takarazuka Mayor Tomoko Nakagawa told a press conference, “Municipalities can offer the biggest support to same-sex couples who face hardships in everyday life. We want to deliver this message: don’t worry on your own, we are with you.”

The city will set guidelines by March regarding the issuance of certificates so that the holders of the papers will be treated the same as married couples with regard to various services. At least one member of the couple must live in Takarazuka.

Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards became Japan’s first and second local governments to introduce the certificate system on Nov. 5. So far, a total of 10 same-sex couples have received the papers, according to the two wards.

People in same-sex relationships often face discrimination when looking for housing or visiting partners in hospitals on the grounds that they are not relatives. The city of Takarazuka is planning to revise its ordinance so that same-sex couples can live in apartments run by the municipality.

The local government will also have all employees receive education on sexual minorities over two years from fiscal 2016. It will also set up a telephone counseling service around May for Takarazuka residents who are sexual minorities.

Same-sex marriages are not legally allowed in Japan and such couples say they face disadvantages, such as inability to inherit property from partners without a will or benefit from income tax deductions for spouses.

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