Japanese city of 1.5 million recognises same-sex partnerships in landmark move

Japanese actress Akane Sugimori (R) and her partner Ayaka Ichinose, both dressed in white, display their wedding rings at a press conference after their marriage ceremony in Tokyo on April 19, 2015. The lesbian couple held a symbolic wedding ceremony in Tokyo, as calls grow for Japan to legalise same-sex marriage. While their marriage will not be recognised under law, actresses Ichinose, 34, and Sugimori, 28 tied the knot in front of some 80 relatives and friends. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

Same-sex couples living in Fukuoka, a Japanese city of 1.5 million people, are now able to have their partnerships recognised by law.

Today, the Fukuoka Municipal Government began officially handing out partnership certificates to same-sex couples.

The city, on the northern coast of the island of Kyushu, is the second-biggest in the country to recognise same-sex partners.

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Last year, Sapporo became the first major city in Japan to issue official partnership vow papers to those who wish to enter a legal same-sex union.

Seven cities and wards have now legalised same-sex partnerships.

The unions carry some of the same benefits as marriage, especially relating to housing and hospital visits.

Japanese lesbian couple Hiroko Masuhara (L) and Koyuki Higashi display a certification paper of "partnership" after receiving it at the Shibuya ward office in Tokyo on November 5, 2015. While the certificates are not legally binding, the district hoped they would encourage hospitals and landlords to ensure same-sex couples receive similar treatment to married people. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO        (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

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Same-sex marriage is still illegal in Japan, and across Asia.

The Mayor of Fukuoka, Soichiro Takashima, gave out the first official partnership certificate to a couple at City Hall.

Anri Ishizaki, a 33-year-old transgender man and outspoken LGBT activist, was legally recognised as being in a union with 27-year-old Miho Yamashita.

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Ishizaki told The Japan Times: “We’ve already spent our lives together as a family but we’re happy (to be recognised) because we feel like we received congratulations from society.”

The certificate does not entail legal rights or obligations like marriage under the civil law, but such couples will be treated as the equivalent of traditionally married couples when they rent city-run housing or seek treatment at municipal hospitals.

The local government reported that five couples had so far taken the opportunity to attain legal recognition.

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In January, the Japanese Government ordered hoteliers to stop discriminating against LGBT+ guests. The Ministry of Health reminded hotels that refusing guests because of their sexuality or gender identity would breach anti-discrimination laws.

Last year, it was revealed that children in Japan will not be taught about LGBT issues for at least 10 years after the government decided against including it in the curriculum.

But a record number of people attended Tokyo Pride, following a series of steps towards LGBT equality in the country.

(Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

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For the first time last year, the country legislated to protect against bullying based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The country has also seen its first trans man elected into public office, as Tomoya Hosoda was voted in as a councillor in the city of Iruma.

A city in Japan became the first to recognise a first same-sex couple as foster parents, with a gay couple in Osaka officially fostering a teenage boy.

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