Japanese city set to become biggest to recognise same-sex relationships

Nearly two million more people will be able to have their LGBT relationships legally recognised from June.

Sapporo, a Japanese city on the northern island of Hokkaido, has finished a public consultation which led to an overwhelming 1,500 people writing in to support the proposal.

Opponents who wrote in were largely concerned that the step could exacerbate the country’s already low birth rate.

Japan does not recognise same-sex marriage on a national basis, but the new law will confer more rights on LGBT couples.

Any couple over 20 years old who both live in the city will be allowed to ask for a “partnership vow,” which will enable them to be recipients of each other’s life insurance payouts.

The official recognition will also provide couples with the opportunity to use family discounts on commercial products, such as phone contracts.

The law was originally intended to come into effect in April, but it was postponed for a public consultation – which made many couples in the city nervous that it would never be implemented.

“I was anxious about a postponement,” 42-year-old Kumiko Kudo, who lives with her same-sex partner, told Japan Times.

“But now I feel relieved as (the government) made clear when it will start,” she said after sitting in on the session with the committee which decided the law’s starting date.

The decision comes hot on the heels of Japan electing its first trans man into public office, with Tomoya Hosoda winning the position of councillor in the central city of Iruma.

Japanese city set to become biggest to recognise same-sex relationships

And in April 2015, Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward became the first place in the country to recognise same-sex partnerships as equivalent to marriage.

Several municipalities have since followed in Shibuya’s footsteps, with support for same-sex relationships growing steadily in Japan over recent years.

A poll in 2015 suggested the majority of people were now in favour of marriage equality.

Many businesses in country, such as Panasonic, have started to adopt policies to recognise same-sex partners for benefits such as health insurance and pensions.