On Tuesday, officials in the Japanese city of Sapporo unveiled a draft of guidelines for recognizing same-sex partnerships.
While Japanese law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, in 2015 Tokyo’s Shibuya district announced it would recognize same-sex couples in regards to housing, hospital visitations and other situations, with a “proof of partnership” certificate. That same year, Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward also granted recognition to gay couples. Several municipalities, such as Iga, Mie Prefecture, Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, have followed suit.
Sapporo would be the first major city in Japan to do so, however, and the first to recognize the relationships of gender-nonconforming citizens.
“If I am ever hospitalized unconscious and in need of emergency surgery, I want my boyfriend to be the one to decide whether I should have such an operation, and to see me in the bed,” says bar owner Akitsugu Kuwaki, 39.
To qualify, applicants would have to be residents of Sapporo and over the age of 20. In addition, either or both partners would have to be “sexual minorities who recognize each other as a life partner and promise to cooperate with each other economically, physically and mentally in their daily life.”
The issue of marriage equality has moved slower in Asia than in Europe, with insiders believing Taiwan will likely be the first country to offer the full benefits of marriage to same-sex couples.