Tokyo ward recognizes same-sex partnerships as ‘equivalent of a marriage’

The AP

With a landmark vote on March 31 by the assembly of Tokyo’s Shibuya ward, the district famous as a mecca for trendy youngsters became the first locale in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships as the “equivalent of a marriage,” guaranteeing the rights of married couples.

The new ordinance applies only to Shibuya, and it’s technically not legally binding, though violators will have their names posted on the ward’s website.

Shibuya — an area with a population of 217,000, including 9,000 foreigners — is also planning an aggressive educational campaign on LGBT issues.

Japanese conservatives, including the powerful politicians of the ruling party, have been unwilling to back the initiative, and protest rallies have popped up in Shibuya.

“A great social ramification will be expected from such a decision,” Mari Sato, a ruling party ward legislator opposed to the move, told the assembly ahead of the vote. “We need much more time to discuss this issue.”

The vote passed, with the majority of the 34 ward’s legislators standing up to show their approval.

The first certificates are expected to be issued in July.

Shibuya ward Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara says accepting diversity matches the friendly, vivacious character of the area — a bustling place known for boutiques, live music and a Silicon Valley-like cluster of startups.