Sapporo City has announced that it will establish a same-sex partnership system beginning in June 2017. This is the first of its kind for the major cities in Japan.
NHK Hokkaido media report said same-sex partnership certificates will be issued to same- sex couples who swear an oath of their relationship and the city will recognize their relationships as equivalent to marriage. The certificates are not legally binding under the city’s ordinance, but same-sex couples in the city will be able to become recipients of each other’s life insurance money and receive family phone plane discounts from mobile carriers.
On February 29th, 2016, Professor Emeritus Ken Suzuki of Hokkaido University, started a campaign for recognition of same-sex partnerships and Domestic Partnership in Sapporo, his support group aimed at realizing a same-sex partnership system, collected signatures of support from Sapporo residents. As a result, the support group collected
signatures from 104 residents (67 LGBT people and 37 straight allies) and started more campaigns and seminars for the city’s councilors in April of the same year.
In June, 2016, Domestic Partnership in Sapporo took its petition to Mayor Akimoto. “I want Sapporo City to be a city where everyone can be themselves and embrace each other’s differences and I will discuss the matter with experts and think about future measures.” The mayor showed a positive outlook on same-sex partnerships.
In August, 2016, Kazuyuki Minami, an openly gay lawyer stood on the stage as a guest speaker in a seminar on same-sex partnerships and Akihiko Itagaki, Vice Mayor of Sapporo City, attended the seminar.
In October 2016, the gender equality vision of the city made leaflets called, ‘What is LGBT?’ , to raise awareness of LGBT issues among the residents. The leaflets were distributed in Sapporo City’s offices.
In November, 2016, Professor Emeritus Ken Suzuki of Hokkaido University hosted a seminar, “Think about same-sex partnerships” in Hokkaido University.
This is how Sapporo City became the first major city to recognize same-sex partnerships in Japan. LGBT community, university professors, lawyers, and straight allies in Sapporo City all worked so hard and strongly urged the mayor, the city councilors, and the city officials to support same-sex partnerships.
LGBT community in Sapporo has been a step ahead of LGBT rights since 1996. The first gay parades in Japan took place in Tokyo and Sapporo in 1996 and Sapporo Rainbow March was one of the biggest gay prides in Japan and many LGBTs attended it every year. (Sapporo Rainbow Parade is the first gay parade that used DJ floats in 1999.) In 2003, Fumio Ueda, the mayor at that time, attended the gay parade. It was the first time such a high ranking government official attended the gay parade. “We, Sapporo City, welcome all of you.” Mr.Ueda made a impressive speech on the strange and came to Rainbow March Sapporo every year.
On September 15th, 2013, Rainbow March Sapporo sadly came to an end, but a new project called,”Next to You” , started on the same day to connect LGBT people with straight allies and improve understanding of LGBT people among the public. The project took over the spirit of Rainbow March Sapporo.
In December, 2015, Nijiiro Hokkaido, an LGBT community center opened with help from LGBT people and straight allies to support LGBT people living with discrimination, prejudice and social isolation. Nijiiro Hokkaido hosts many kinds of events for LGBT community in Sapporo.
And this year, 2016, Domestic Partnership in Sapporo launched a lot of campaigns for recognition of same-sex partnerships and the city decided to take actions for the rights of LGBT people.
Now, a new committee is trying to hold a new gay pride parade, Sapporo Rainbow March +.