SAPPORO--A lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights group here including human rights lawyers is set to take its campaign for the official recognition of same-sex partnerships to the Sapporo city government and assembly.

Domestic Partnership in Sapporo, formed in the biggest city of Japan’s northernmost island, said that the city should follow in the footsteps of other areas such as Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, which was the first place in Japan to introduce a same-sex partnership ordinance.

Movements pushing for similar measures around Japan are growing. If such a proposal is passed in Sapporo, it would become the first of Japan’s 20 largest cities with populations above 500,000 to recognize same-sex partnerships, outside of Tokyo.

“I fell in love with a person of the same sex for the first time when I was over 30,” said a woman in her 50s at a meeting between the group and around 10 members of Sapporo’s city assembly at a Sapporo Bar Association office on April 5.

She lives with her female partner of 20 years.

“Yet, our relationship is not socially recognized,” she said.

Her story was followed by accounts from three more individuals at the meeting.

Domestic Partnership in Sapporo is calling for a move that will allow the city government to issue official documentation as proof of a same-sex partnership, where a couple maintains a household together, in place of a marriage certificate.

In Japan, sexual minority couples face many obstacles in their daily lives. Individuals can be refused access to visit their partner in critical condition at hospitals where only family members are permitted. Other issues include not being able to assign a partner as a beneficiary of an insurance policy.

The group hopes, if the measure passes, that businesses and establishments may follow suit and become inclusive in such circumstances.

Domestic Partnership in Sapporo is planning to take its petition to the city government and assembly in early May, and is currently collecting signatures of support from Sapporo residents on its social networks, including Facebook, until April 22. (https://www.facebook.com/dpinsapporo1/).

Thirty-nine-year-old gay resident Akitsugu Kuwaki, who runs a bar here, is a driving force behind the petition.

“If I am ever hospitalized unconscious and in need of emergency surgery, I want my boyfriend to be the one to decide whether I should have such an operation, and to see me in the bed. But, in this society, such rights may not be recognized,” said Kuwaki.

Kuwaki realized his sexuality when he was about 14.

“You cannot have a happy life,” his mother told him when she learned of his sexual orientation some time later.

Believing his mother would accept him if he could show her that a gay man can lead a satisfying life, he started to speak out on LGBT issues in Sapporo through his work.

He was an organizing member of “Rainbow March Sapporo,” an LGBT pride parade through Sapporo’s central district, which began in 1996 and continued until 2013.

Today he holds seminars for small to midsize businesses to improve understanding of LGBT issues among their employees.

“I believe (recognition of the legislation for same-sex partnerships) will provide broader choices in the lives of sexual minorities,” said Kuwaki. “We must not just stay in the closet and blame society for a lack of understanding of LGBT issues. We ourselves need to reach out and ask for it. Collecting signatures is one way of doing just that.”