HIROSAKI, Aomori -- The "partnership oath scheme" certifying LGBT and sexual minority couples as in a relationship equivalent to a married couple will be introduced to this northeast Japan city in December.
The plans were revealed in remarks by Hirosaki Mayor Hiroshi Sakurada at the city assembly's general question and answer session on Sept. 11. According to the municipal government, 57 local governments had already implemented a similar scheme as of the end of August, but the city of Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture will become the first in the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan to do so.
To be eligible for the scheme, couples must both be legal adults who are residents of the city or planning to move there, and one or both partners must identify as a sexual minority. After submitting the oath papers, applicants can receive a certificate from the Hirosaki Municipal Government.
Ordinarily, unmarried couples need a letter of attorney or consent when applying for papers such as a certificate of residence or income tax on behalf of their partner. Under the scheme, however, they will be able to perform the procedures just by presenting the oath certificate.
The Hirosaki Municipal Government will begin gathering public comments on the change from Sept. 15, and design the initiative with an aim to introduce it in December. The municipal government will reportedly also begin considering making couples eligible for city-managed housing, among other benefits.
In a press interview after the city assembly, Mayor Sakurada said, "I wish to proceed with turning this region into one that accepts diversity. I hope our city's efforts spread to many local governments."
A man in his 40s who has lived with his same-sex partner for 10 years attended the Sept. 11 city assembly. He commented, "It could be a step in promoting understanding of the LGBT community and other sexual minorities. I would like the city to listen to more couples' opinions before introducing the scheme, and aim to make it even better."
(Japanese original by Yushi Ezawa, Aomori Bureau)