Japanese companies are adopting new partnership certificates to help them protect LGBT+ families despite Japan not offering same-sex marriage.
Around 20 companies will start recognizing ‘partnership certificates’ for same-sex couples in July.
The Famiee Project, a nongovernmental organization, has created the scheme to help same-sex couples get the same benefits that married couples enjoy.
They are not just looking to employers. They also hope like-minded organizations including insurance companies, banks, hospitals and other service providers will recognize the certificates.
Cities recognize partners but government remains stuck
Japan is alone among G7 countries in not giving same-sex partners formal civil unions or marriage equality.
And the Famiee Project is not the only organization to seek alternatives to help couples right now.
Over 50 cities now issue partnership certificates to same-sex couples. They are not legally binding. But the cities hope they will help with day-to-day issues like visiting partners in hospitals or moving into shared rented accommodation.
Moreover, most Japanese citizens also support same-sex marriage. Polls since 2015 have found solid and growing support for marriage equality, particularly among young people.
Despite this, the government is stuck.
The ruling party is called the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) but unlike similarly named parties elsewhere, holds conservative attitudes.
It has been in power almost continuously since 1955. And it has consistently blocked marriage equality.
Indeed last year former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said Liberal Democratic Party colleagues were against her bringing in new legislation to better recognize same-sex relationships. And despite wanting to ‘promote understanding’ of LGBT people even she is not calling for equal marriage.
Meanwhile LDP member Katsuei Hirasawa commented in February 2019 that the ‘nation would collapse’ if everyone were gay. And LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita described same-sex couples as ‘unproductive’ in 2018 as she – wrongly – believes they do not have children.
Making change right now to help couples
Of course, many companies already offer partnership benefits to employees. But Famiee certificates hope to go further.
Famiee founder Koki Uchiyama told Kyodo News: ‘We want to start changing where we can through the private sector so that families of same-sex couples can be recognized as normal.’
One of the companies taking part in the new partnership certificate scheme is Mizuho Financial Group Inc.
Mizuho has over 56,000 people working in 880 offices. But even this giant found it difficult to give employee benefits to partners who don’t live in cities which currently issue certificates and who, therefore, can’t easily prove their relationship. It said:
‘We have used certificates of residencies but Famiee certificates will be even more reliable evidence for same-sex couples. We want to foster an inclusive work environment for diverse people.’
To get one of the certificates, partners will apply digitally using Famiee’s smartphone app. They will have to show documentation that they are both single before registering the relationship.