[JURIST] A Tokyo district assembly became the first municipality in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships on Tuesday. The measure, passed by Tokyo’s Shibuya ward [official website], will become effective [Reuters report] April 1, when Shibuya will begin issuing partnership papers that allow couples to rent apartments together and grant hospital visitation rights as family members. The certificates will recognize same-sex partnerships as “equivalent to marriage” [Guardian report]. This ordinance is not legally binding, but hospitals and businesses that breach the ordinance will have their names published on the ward’s website. Supporters of same-sex marriage hailed the recognition as a victory, but opponents are wary of giving more rights to gay couples. Japanese lawmakers remain hesitant to discuss the creation of legally binding same-sex civil unions.
Same-sex marriage continues to be hotly debated issue, both in the US and abroad. Last month a nationwide anti-gay marriage referendum in Slovakia that was intended to bolster the country’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban failed [JURIST report] because of the low voter turnout. In January a French court ruled [JURIST report] that a same-sex French-Moroccan couple could legally marry in France, even though Morocco does not recognize same-sex marriage. Also in January the US Supreme Court agreed [JURIST report] to rule on same-sex marriage, granting certiorari in four separate cases. In August Ugandan Attorney General Peter Nyomb filed [JURIST report] an appeal against the constitutional court ruling that struck down the nation’s anti-homosexuality law. Last January the Nigerian president signed [JURIST report] the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law, banning same-sex marriage and criminalizing same-sex relationships. Similar laws exist in Singapore and Jamaica [JURIST reports].