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Gunma to become 3rd Japan pref. to introduce partnership oaths for LGBT couples

The Gunma Prefectural Government headquarters (Mainichi)

MAEBASHI -- The Gunma Prefectural Government announced on Nov. 5 that it will introduce a "partnership oath scheme," certifying LGBT and other sexual minority couples as being in a relationship equivalent to a married couple, by the end of the year at the earliest.

    The Gunma government plans to allow those who receive certification to live together in prefectural housing, which they are currently restricted from doing, among other benefits. Gunma will become Japan's third prefecture to introduce the scheme. The prefectural town of Oizumi had already introduced the system in January 2019, and it is hoped that the concept spreads to other municipalities in the future.

    The prefectural government is still considering details of the program, including administrative services, but expects to issue "passports" supporting married couples in Gunma -- which allow couples to live in prefecture-run housing, visit a partner at a prefectural hospital as their family member, and receive discounts and other services at certain stores for a while after submitting the oath papers.

    In a vision for a new general plan which is being formulated, the prefectural government aims to support diversity. It has been pushing measures to live with those of foreign nationality in peace. Gunma Gov. Ichita Yamamoto said in a regular press conference on Nov. 5 that the introduction of the scheme is part of such efforts.

    "As we aim to support diversity, we thought it was the perfect timing to send out a positive message. By enhancing prefectural residents' understanding, we hope it will be helpful for sexual minorities to live a life they envision," Yamamoto said.

    Hisana Mamada, head of Hareruwa, a support group for sexual minorities in the prefectural capital of Maebashi, appreciated the Gunma government's new policy. "I really liked how the governor claimed that because diversity leads to happiness among all residents in the prefecture, the scheme should be introduced. It was a strong message toward municipal governments, and might help enhance understanding (of LGBT couples) among prefectural residents."

    (Japanese original by Minami Michioka and Atsuko Suzuki, Maebashi Bureau)

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