JAPAN: Shibuya Approves Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples

Shibuya_Night_(HDR)The legislature of Shibuya, a ward of Tokyo which is best known for fashion trends and nightlife, has become the first jurisdiction in Japan to approve a civil union registry for same-sex couples. The ordinance was approved 31 March by the ward’s assembly and took effect on 1 April, but it will be a few months before the first certificates of civil union are issued.

From Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo:

The certificates are not legally binding, meaning that certified couples will not gain the legal rights associated with marriage, such as inheritance rights. However, the ward’s move has spurred similar action around Japan, despite opposition from members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party at the national level.

In the ward assembly session, members of the Japanese Communist Party, Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan voted in favor of the ordinance. LDP members voted against it.

Shibuya Ward will issue the certificate to same-sex couples who are 20 or older, live in the ward, and submit notarized documents stating each partner is the conservator of the other.

The ordinance is aimed at addressing some of the problems facing same-sex couples. Many have complained that landlords refuse to lease apartments to them. Partners have also been denied visitation rights to their hospitalized partners because they were not considered family.

The ward government will take steps to addressing business discrimination against same-sex couples, up to publicizing the name of a noncompliant business. Other city jurisdictions in Tokyo, Hyogo and Kanagawa Prefectures are considering similar civil union registries.

Outside of Shibuya, the national and prefectural governments does not recognize same-sex couples or civil unions. The Liberal Democratic Party, the long-ruling party of prime minister Shinzo Abe, is opposed to same-sex marriage, but his wife is very supportive of LGBT rights including marriage equality.

Here’s video, courtesy of TBS Tokyo (in Japanese):

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