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This piece initially ran on Advocate.com. Read the original here.
"In response to the wishes of Tokyo residents and those concerned by this issue, we will draft a basic principle to recognize same-sex partnerships this fiscal year," Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced Tuesday.
Koike said Tokyo planned to introduce same-sex partnerships after the city’s local assembly unanimously called for it. Koike also said that couples will be able to share and rent homes as well as secure hospital visitations.
Municipalities in the area have introduced similar plans to legally recognize same-sex couples, providing these couples with some of the rights of married straight couples.
Activists have celebrated the move and have called it a significant step toward greater acceptance in Japanese society.
“Some conservatives have voiced concerns that even though these partnerships are just symbolic pieces of paper, they could undermine Japanese traditions or the traditional Japanese family system. Hopefully this will be a chance to prove otherwise," Masa Yanagisawa, a board member for the LGBTQ+ rights group Marriage for All Japan said, according to Reuters.
Critics have said that the partnerships don’t go far enough and that same-sex couples will still face discrimination through the tax code and other systems.
A majority of Japanese people support marriage equality, according to France 24.
Some activists have said that the new partnership system was inspired by the diversity of the Olympics held in Tokyo last summer. Advocates at the time had hoped to use the Olympics as a way to push the Japanese government to adopt same-sex marriage. However, the country's legislature failed to pass it.
Currently, the Japanese constitution defines marriage as between consenting adults of "both sexes." However, in March, a court in Japan found banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Japan is the only G7 country that does not recognize same-sex marriages. But Taiwan is currently the only Asian country to recognize marriage equality.