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Fukuoka to become Japan’s seventh municipality to recognize LGBT couples

The city of Fukuoka, Japan, said Wednesday it would start recognizing partnerships of LGBT couples in April, becoming the seventh municipality to do so despite the absence of such a system at the national level.

Under the new plan, the city will issue papers authenticating partnership oaths submitted by sexual minority couples. Unlike official marriages, the recognition does not entail legal rights or obligations but is expected to be used when couples rent city-run housing or undergo medical treatment requiring the consent of a family member at city hospitals.

Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards became the first local governments in the nation to recognize same-sex partnerships in 2015 followed by the cities of Iga, Takarazuka, and Naha. Sapporo followed suit last June.

Sapporo and Fukuoka also recognize opposite-sex couples on the official family registry where one, or even both, person’s gender identity does not match their sex at birth.

While these couples can opt for legal marriage, some choose to file for LGBT partnerships instead.

In November 2015 in Shibuya, Koyuki Higashi, a former member of the all-female Takarazuka Revue troupe, and her entrepreneur partner, Hiroko Masuhara, became country’s first same-sex couple recognized under the partnership system, but they later split up.

Fukuoka is also considering offering consultation services for LGBT people and organizing networking events. It is expected to submit a related budget bill to a local assembly meeting on Monday.

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