Photo/Illutration A same-sex couple in Fukuoka Prefecture who want their partnership to be officially recognized (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

UBE, Yamaguchi Prefecture--After receiving objections from residents, the city government here will postpone the start of a LGBT partnership system for at least six months to sell the public on the idea.

Respondents to a city request for feedback overwhelmingly opposed the introduction, saying, "We are not ready for that."

Ube officials initially aimed to introduce the system, which officially recognizes same-sex couples and partnerships among sexual minorities to make them eligible for benefits and services, by the end of fiscal 2020 on March 31.

The city government in December 2020 solicited public comments about the introduction, as the system is expected to be introduced as a guideline, which does not require the city assembly’s vote.

Officials said they received a total of 217 letters and emails from residents. Of these, about 80 percent were opposed, while 16 percent supported it.

Thirty-three respondents said they disagree with the plan because they believe “marrying and having children is the natural form for a family.”

Twenty-five said there is “no need to introduce a new system because individual human rights can be protected under the existing policies.”

Twenty-two said, “It is premature” for the city to implement such a system.

Nineteen said they are against the plan because it will lead to an education of “diverse sexuality,” which they think “will cause psychological disturbances among young children.”

On the other hand, 23 people who supported the plan said the city should “work to eliminate difference in services between legally married couples and same-sex couples.”

Two respondents said the system should be expanded and made available to wider areas.

City officials said the public comments were solicited from people who live or work in the city, but some comments submitted did not include an address.

Based on the public comments, a council to promote human rights policies appointed by the city discussed the matter in February.

Some of the council members were concerned about the public’s lack of understanding about the issue. Others said the system should be set up regardless of the mixed reception because it will educate the public about the realities of sexual minorities. 

The city government then decided to postpone the plan. Officials said they will attend local meetings to explain why the LGBT partnership system is necessary, hand out leaflets and hold lectures to enlighten the public on the issue and obtain its support and understanding.

Under the proposed system, adult same-sex couples living in Ube will receive a certificate from the city government certifying them as a couple. While the designation is not legally binding, the certificate will enable them to receive administrative services that legally married couples are eligible for such as public housing and public subsidies.

Same-sex couples who relocate to the city will receive the certificate upon registering their residence. 

Noriko Kaneko, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Ube who supports sexual minorities with hormonal therapy and other treatments, said the comments reflected the lack of public understanding of sexual minorities. 

“They have the right to freely choose the partner they want to live with," Kaneko said. "A partnership system is not something that conflicts with traditional family values. They are able to coexist. I hope more people come to understand the issue, and the system will be implemented in September.”