KYOTO -- Adults living in this western Japan city who are LGBTQ couples and in other partnerships that involve sexual minorities can now be publicly certified by the city government under the "partnership oath scheme."
The program that started Sept. 1 allows couples to jointly proclaim that their significant other is their life partner, and in doing so receive certification from the Kyoto Municipal Government. It has been adopted as part of attempts to encourage understanding of sexual minorities, and to improve their ability to take part in society. It is the first time for the scheme to be introduced in any of Kyoto Prefecture's municipalities.
On Sept. 1, the city's government office held a ceremony to issue the certificates, and Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa handed them to five couples. The room was filled with happy voices, with partners saying things including, "Finally our existence has been recognized," and, "It was our dream to become a family together. I feel like now that wish has been granted." Mayor Kadokawa said in part of his public remarks, "We will continue working hard to recognize diversity in sexuality and various forms of families."
To be eligible for the scheme, couples must both be legal adults, one or both must be residents of the city of Kyoto, neither can be married nor in a partnership with other individuals, and with the exception of an adoptive marriage, where one partner is adopted by the parents of the other partner, they cannot be in a relationship that might preclude marriage in accordance with the Civil Code.
Applicants are expected to prepare documents from their family register and other papers, and then visit a city facility as a couple at an arranged time to sign the oath papers. If everything is in order, the certificate and other documents are issued on the same day. Although the oath doesn't have any legal benefits, it does make the couples eligible for living in city-managed housing, and city employees are considering including people with it under those who can receive benefit payments.
According to the municipal government, by the end of Sept. 1, 20 couples had applied to be recognized under the scheme. One couple, Yoshihide Hamamoto, 49, and Tomokazu Izasa, 42, both of whom live in the city's Sakyo Ward, told the Mainichi Shimbun that when they were searching for a place to live together they weren't shown properties by a real estate company because "the owner was against it." Hamamoto added, "I would be happy if this could be an opportunity for companies and others to further their understanding."
Kimiko Tsuboi, 36, a resident of the city's Kita Ward who was at the government office to receive certification recognizing her same sex partnership, said that with the spread of the new coronavirus she had been worried whether she or her partner would be able to visit the other in hospital if they got sick. Expressing her expectations for the city's future efforts, she said, "The recognition of diversity in families is the first step. This isn't the final goal."
(Japanese original by Kanae Soejima, Kyoto Bureau)