CHIBA, Japan (Kyodo) -- The city of Chiba, east of Tokyo, said Thursday it will begin issuing partnership certificates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples as well as common-law marriage couples from April.
Municipalities in Japan are starting to issue such certificates for sexual minorities, since the Tokyo's Shibuya and Setagaya wards became the first local governments to recognize such partnerships in 2015. They were followed by the cities of Iga, Takarazuka, Naha, Sapporo, Fukuoka and Osaka.
Chiba will be the first municipality not to limit the recognition to LGBT couples, saying applicants only need to meet a set of requirements such as that both people are at least 20 years old, without a spouse, and either lives or plans to live in the city.
"We will create a foundation where people can live the way they want to," Mayor Toshihito Kumagai said at a press conference, adding he hopes his city's move would be a "catalyst" for people to think about the concept of families and partnerships.
While Japan has been making efforts to eliminate discrimination against sexual minorities, a recent string of anti-LGBT comments by lawmakers has sparked public criticism.
A female lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party drew criticism by writing an article in July saying the LGBT couples are "unproductive" because they don't reproduce. Another LDP lawmaker also came under fire for saying on an internet show that same-sex relationships are "something like a hobby."