FUKUOKA -- The municipal government here is set to introduce a new system in fiscal 2018 that will officially recognize same-sex couples as partners, it has emerged.
The municipality -- which is the largest in the Kyushu region in terms of population -- aims to start the initiative on April 1, 2018, after drawing up a basic outline concerning the system's procedures.
Titled the "partnership oath system," the new framework will enable same-sex couples to receive a "receipt," in exchange for submitting a signed oath to the Fukuoka Municipal Government. It is also thinking of bringing in support measures such as an LGBT consultation service.
If the system is actually introduced, Fukuoka will become the second government-designated major city after Sapporo, and the second municipality in the Kyushu-Okinawa region after Naha, to bring in such an initiative. Eligible applicants are likely to be adults aged 20 or above who either live in or plan to move to Fukuoka, and who are not married to anyone else. Under the plan that the municipal government is considering, applicants will submit their signed oath along with a residence registry document and a certificate showing single status.
The oath "receipt" will have no binding force in terms of legal rights and obligations. However, moves to treat same-sex couples as spouses are spreading as six Japanese municipalities have already brought in such a system. At the same time, some companies and hospitals are moving to recognize same-sex partners as eligible life insurance beneficiaries, or as family members consenting to medical-related decisions.
At a municipal assembly meeting in September 2017, Fukuoka Mayor Soichiro Takashima stated, "I will consider the introduction of a support framework for sexual minorities that includes a partnership system, with the intention of creating a more inclusive society that recognizes diversity," in response to requests from related organizations.