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Chiba (Japan): Municipal Civil Union for Homo- and Heterosexuals

(Blogmensgo, gay blog of February 4, 2019) Toshihito Kumagai, mayor of the Japanese city of Chiba, issued the first “partnership certificates” for six unmarried couples on January 29, 2019. Chiba is the first Japanese city government to offer a registered partnership for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Actually, the registered partnership in Chiba was supposed to come into force in April 2019 (see our article), but the young mayor has acted faster than expected.

Ryuta Yanase and Satoru Ito

Ryuta Yanase and Satoru Ito (56 and 65 years old) are one of the couples officially recognized in Chiba recently. ©amazon.com

Immediately on the first day, four gay couples and two heterosexual couples registered their partnership in Chiba. In Japan itself, there is no same-sex marriage or partnership, but in Chiba, the municipality provides benefits to registered couples (both gay and heterosexual) similar to those of married couples. Similar, but not identical, because Japanese national law only applies to married couples – for example, inheritance law.

Nevertheless, the registered partnership in Chiba is a significant step forward for couples who may not or do not want to marry.

The city of Chiba is located 40 km southeast of Tokyo and, according to the 2016 census, has almost 1 million inhabitants. This makes it the fourth largest Japanese city to offer its citizens a gay partnership and the only one to offer this to straight couples as well.

Requirements for registered partnerships in Chiba:

  • Two unmarried partners, at least 20 years old.
  • Residence or future residence in Chiba.

The main advantages of registered partnership in Chiba:

  • Right to move into urban housing.
  • In case of hospitalization: right of visit for the spouse and obtaining his consent in case of surgery.
  • Most likely: a larger overdraft facility on the bank.

In Japan, there are now 10 cities or district council houses where same-sex partnerships can be registered.

  • Four major cities: Sapporo (2017), Fukuoka and Osaka (2018), Chiba (2019).
  • Three districts of Tokyo: Shibuya and Setagaya (2015), Nakano (2018).
  • Three more cities: Iga, Takarazuka and Naha (2016).

By the way: In February 2019 about ten gay and lesbian couples sued the state for violation of the right to equality and freedom of marriage, which is guaranteed by the Japanese constitution.

District of Ibaraki also considering same-sex partnership

North of Chiba, the district of Ibaraki is also planning a similar same-sex partnership as of April 2019. Ibaraki would then be the eleventh administration and in particular the first Japanese district administration with such a same-sex partnership.

The conditions for the registration of such a partnership are quite similar to those of Chiba: minimum age 20 years and live in the county (or want to move there). Further details are currently unknown and will be discussed shortly.

Frank-S / MensGo

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