Tokyo’s Shibuya district started Thursday to issue same-sex couples with certificates that recognize their partnerships as being equivalent to marriage, but without being legally binding.
Shibuya became the first municipality in Japan to do so when it gave a certificate to two women – Hiroko Masuhara and Koyuki Higashi.
“We are delighted to be recognized as a family in the town where we live,” Masuhara told reporters.
Same-sex couples aged 20 or older living in the district are allowed to apply for the certificate.
The new documents will not be legally binding as Japan’s constitution effectively limits the definition of marriage to an agreement between a man and a woman, stating “marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.”
Same-sex couples in Japan often face discrimination when living together or visiting partners at hospitals on the grounds that they are not regarded as formally married.