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4 LGBTQ couples granted partnership certificates in central Japan city

Panda Takeuchi, left, and her partner smile after receiving a certificate of acceptance for partnership oaths, in the city of Echizen, Fukui Prefecture. (Mainichi/Yoko Kunimoto)

ECHIZEN, Fukui -- The government of this central Japan city has started a "partnership oath system" that publicly recognizes sexual minority couples as partners, becoming the first local body in Fukui Prefecture to do so.

    On Oct. 3, four couples were granted certificates of acceptance under the new system launched on Oct. 1. The four couples were among five pairs who wished to use the system, which is designed for adult partners.

    According to the Echizen Municipal Government, the city is the third to introduce the system among municipalities in the three Hokuriku region prefectures of Fukui, Toyama and Ishikawa, following the cities of Kanazawa and Hakusan, both in Ishikawa Prefecture.

    On Oct. 3, Panda Takeuchi, 33, a blacksmith in Echizen, and her 23-year-old partner visited the city hall together and received the certificate. "I'm happy as we had nothing tangible," Takeuchi commented. In explaining the reason for revealing her face before the media, she said, "I wanted to send the message that we (sexual minorities) are around."

    A 43-year-old man identified as Hideaki and his 33-year-old partner, both caregivers, received the certificate of acceptance while wearing marriage rings they had prepared for the occasion. The couple have been living together for more than five years and purchased a house in Echizen, where they reside now.

    "Fukui is a closed society and it's hard to come out here, so I was often conflicted in my teens," Hideaki recalled, adding, "It means a lot that the city government has recognized us (as partners)."

    The city has promoted understanding among local residents about sexual minorities.

    Those who apply for partnerships under the system become eligible for four types of administrative services that had previously been granted only to family members -- moving into municipal housing, acquisition of tax-related certificates without proxy letters, applying for disaster victim certificates, and consolation payments for bereaved families of crime victims.

    Kazue-chan, 39, a YouTuber living in the city of Fukui, who has campaigned for the introduction of the partnership oath system along with supporters, commented, "The introduction of the system will help make concerned parties visible to others. My goal is to see a society where LGBTQ people are taken for granted and there is no need to come out."

    According to a Mainichi Shimbun survey, of the 16 municipalities in Fukui Prefecture apart from Echizen, the city of Awara is also preparing to introduce a partnership oath system in fiscal 2023. The cities of Katsuyama, Sakai and Sabae have also responded that they "are actively looking into introducing such a system."

    (Japanese original by Yoko Kunimoto, Fukui Bureau)

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