Iga City in Mie Prefecture started issuing same-sex partnership certificates. The first certificate was given to a local lesbian couple.

iga_ceremony2nd right man is the mayor of Iga City, Mr.Okamoto. The center person in red Ninja costume is Soichi Yamaguchi.

On April 1st, Iga City in Mie Prefecture started its new partnership system called “Iga City Partnership Oath” that officially recognizes same-sex couples as equivalent to marriage and issuing same-sex partnership certificates. Last November, Shibuya Ward and Setagaya Ward in Tokyo started issuing the official certificates. Iga City followed suit and became the third municipality that recognizes same-sex partnership in Japan.

A memorial event was held at the entrance of the city office to celebrate another birth of LGBT-friendly municipality. Soichi Yamaguchi, a representative of a LGBT support organization “ELLY” and two other members met four staff members in charge of human rights and gender equality policy and held up rainbow flags and colorful balloons together. They were all dressed as Ninja, which is the symbol design of Iga City.

“Mie Prefecture has bravely taken a great step after Tokyo. I am very happy that my hometown prefecture followed suit. Even in a local municipality like Mie, we can start changing social system for equality,” said Mr. Yamaguchi.

Mr. Okamoto, the mayor of Iga City greeted the audience,saying “Society with diversity is a society where everyone can live comfortably. We would not have celebrated today without the massive effort of all the people involved in this. We must keep this momentum going.” He sent up the balloons with Mr.Yamaguchi together.

Under “Iga City Partnership Oath”, same-sex couples living in Iga City who are 20 or older 20 years old can apply for the same-sex partnership certificates after they submit official documents that prove they have taken a partnership oath. They also need to submit official paperwork documenting their current address, their birthplaces, and their marital status as single. After all the procedures, they need to have an interview with the staff in the city office of Iga City and take an oath in front of the staff. After receiving the same-sex partnership certificate, same-sex couples will be treated as equivalent to married. The certificate will enable them to receive some benefits when seeking housing offered by Iga City, consult doctors together and sign a consent form of surgery in hospital.

On April 15th, a lesbian couple both in their twenties received the first same-sex partnership certificate. The couple shared the joy of getting official recognition. “This is a hope for our future,” they said.

The couple met each other about five years ago and said that both of their parents know that they applied for the partnership certificate. When one of the two said “I am really happy. I hope someday we all can walk on the street holding each other’s hand,” the other one also said “People still think same-sex couples are insaneI hope this certificate will be the first step toward what she just said. This certificate can tell those people that we are not insane at all. This may be just a mere piece of paper, but still this is the proof that diversity in society should be respected and that’s not wrong.”

According to Chunichi Shinbun, one of the two is a transgender. The couple smiled to each other and said “It doesn’t matter if my partner is a man or a woman. Sex doesn’t define us.”