Family and Partnership: Motivations in Applying for Same-Sex Partnership Certificate in Shibuya, Tokyo
In a previous study conducted in the late 2000s by the Rainbow Talk 2006 research team, we concluded that same-sex couples in Japan would intentionally try to maintain a cordial relationship with their kin, especially their parents and siblings, as a “safety net", since absolutely no legal rights or recognitions are given to same-sex couples (Sugiura, Kamano and Yanagihara, 2008).
In 2017 now, ten years after the previous study, more than a handful of municipal governments in Japan offer some form of official recognition of same-sex couples. Shibuya-ward in Tokyo was the first to do so, allowing same-sex couples to obtain a “same-sex partnership certificate”, based on an ordinance that took effect in November 2015. While this certificate does not give the couple any of the rights given to heterosexually married couples, the requirement of the submission of a notarized private contract means that the couple would formalize their relationship in the form of a pledge or an agreement.
Based on face-to-face interviews of 16 individuals in a same-sex couple relationship conducted in July-August 2017, we examine how the individuals view the certificate offered by Shibuya-ward, factors motivating the couples to obtain the certificate, and the effects it has on their lives. We will also extract ideas of marriage and families that emerge from the interviews. Preliminarily, we found that for some individuals, being accepted by their family of origin is important before they move toward obtaining the certificate, and that such a certificate is meaningful only when their relationship is celebrated by their family members. Our findings would provide additional insights to the idea of the “families we choose” (Weston, 1991).