MITO--Ibaraki Governor Kazuhiko Oikawa announced June 24 that the prefectural government will issue “partnership declaration certificates” for sexual minority couples from July 1.

It would be the first time for a prefectural government to introduce such a system.

If couples in which one or both partners are sexual minorities submit a “written oath” to the prefectural government, it will issue a “certificate of receipt” that they are recognized as equal to family members.

The certificate would enable LGBT couples to be treated as equal to opposite-sex couples in a number of situations.

For example, sexual minority couples with the document could get benefits when applying to move into public housing.

It would also give them the right to sign surgical consent forms for their partner at prefecture-run medical institutions as well as the right to visit their partner if one is hospitalized.

The prefectural government will also call on city, town and village governments in the prefecture to recognize such couples as family members when they use local government-run residences or hospitals.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which holds the largest number of seats in the prefectural assembly, had expressed their objection, in effect, on June 19, submitting a recommendation reading, “It is too early,” to the prefectural government.

Oikawa, as a countermeasure, decided to introduce the new system as a policy that can be pushed forward by the governor’s own judgment without the consensus of the assembly.

“Basic human rights might be infringed upon unless we do this as quickly as possible. We are setting the stage for sexual minorities to be able to live with confidence and pride.”

A similar system was introduced by Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward as an ordinance in 2015, followed by many other municipal governments nationwide.