Chiba City Council Environments and Economics Committee passed the petition, submitted by advocacy groups, to officially recognize same-sex partnership on April 26th. The city announced the introduction outline will be made.
“We hope the outline will be complete by the beginning of this fall. We will spend four months to raise awareness of same-sex partnership in the city and hope to start it from next April,” said Hirokazu Koike, the chief of Civic Affairs Bureau. The new partnership system will issue the partnership certificates not only to same-sex couples, but also to common law heterosexual couples. The new partnership system will be updated after taking advice from the parties involved and support groups.
Couples eligible for the certificates need to live in the city or have a plan to move to the city according to Chiba City Gender Equality Division. “We hope to have more LGBTQ- friendly systems in the future,” said the official. The city is going to officially support same- sex partners and make efforts to achieve better understanding among the local businesses and the citizens.
The petition was submitted by Rainbow Chiba, an advocacy group in the city, last March. “Sometimes same-sex partners are not allowed to live together and they are not treated as family in hospitals,” said Haruka Kamii, the co-representative of Rainbow Chiba, insisting on the importance of establishing laws to protect their rights. Some city councillors pointed out the fact that most of the issues facing same-sex couples can be prevented by establishing laws.
“We wanted the city to enact ordinances, but the outline is good enough. We hope more people will realize the issues facing same-sex couples. Everybody is different, so we will work hard to get as much feedback as possible and make sure the city will listen to each opinion,” said Kamii.
Chiba City has done many things for the local LGBTQ community. They erased a gender section from official certificates, started a new paid leave system for same-sex partners (for the first time in Japan) and made guidelines to deal with LGBTQ issues.
So far seven municipalities have introduced same-sex partnership in Japan. Chiba City is the third city that has started same-sex partnership (Shibuya Ward in Tokyo is the first and Setagaya Ward is the second.) As a major city, Chiba City is the fourth city after Sapporo, Fukuoka and Osaka.