Japanese city to issue residential certificate for same-sex couples

A Japanese city will issue a residential certificate to same-sex couples in which one of the partners will be described as the "unregistered" husband, or the "unregistered" wife at their request, from this July.

The city of Kanuma in Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo announced the decision. Officials say they will be following a precedent set by a city in southwestern Japan.

Media reported earlier this week that the city of Omura in Nagasaki Prefecture had issued a residential certificate to a same-sex male couple in a similar way on May 2, which is an unprecedented measure in Japan. Same-sex marriages are not legally recognized in the country.

Now, when a same-sex couple in Kanuma City applies for a residential certificate, one of them is described as a "cohabitant," a term suggesting that their relationship is not that of a marriage.

Kanuma city officials say that same-sex couples, who have their residential certificates already issued under the current system, can come under the new format from July, if the couples want to.

In 2019, Kanuma became the first local government in Tochigi Prefecture to introduce a system in which the city officially recognizes same-sex couples as being entitled to some of the same benefits that married couples are.

City officials say the idea for residential certificates had been discussed for some time, and the precedent set by Omura City has finally galvanized Kanuma into deciding to go ahead with it.

The officials say they hope Kanuma's decision will help encourage national debates about same-sex couples, and diversity in Japanese society.