Pros and Cons with the partnership registration system
Of course, there is some debate as to the benefits and the drawbacks of the partnership registration system.
I should note my husband, and I are also quite active in the movement for full marriage equality in Japan. Some folks within the LGBTQIA＋ community have pushed back at the partnership registration system as it falls far short of full equality.
My husband and I share the perspective that one significant benefit of this system is visibility.
It can still be quite difficult for folks to come out publicly in Japan.
This can lead to the myth that there are fewer LGBTQ+ folks here or that there is little interest in LGBTQ+ equality or the mistaken belief that political figures can publicly malign our community without consequence.
Partnership registration is one genuine way to stand up and be counted. Of course, this goes hand in hand with the drawback of basically forcing someone to come out publicly in official documents that can easily be researched by potential employers, family members, other government agencies.
It also discounts folks in the community who are not partnered or do not wish to be partnered.
It runs the risk of oversimplifying the struggle for LGBTQIA＋ equality down to just marriage equality.
These are all valid points, and every person needs to determine for themselves if this system is right for them. In that sense, partnership registration is very similar to marriage in that it’s not something you can keep off the public record.
This can come along with genuine risks, especially for Japanese citizens who may risk their careers, living situation, and or family relationships if they come out in such an obvious and public way.
Considering the legal benefits of partnership registration, you’ll find they vary greatly by municipality.
Some municipalities have given their registration a bit legal power promising consequences (fines or reprimands) for businesses, employers, and housing agents or landlords who discriminate based on their partnership status.
However, many municipalities (my own included) have taken a much softer approach asking for “cooperation” and “understanding” of diversity without any real consequences for outright discriminatory behavior.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to this piecemeal approach to equality is the nontransferable nature of the partnership registration certificates. As each municipality or prefecture issues the certificates (except in a few rare cases of adjoining municipalities), they are only recognized by the issuing municipality or prefecture.
Therefore, if my partner and I were to relocate to another city or prefecture, our partnership registration with our current city would be nullified.
We may or may not end up in a location where we could register our partnership anew.
This also means that if we were to encounter discrimination outside of our city based on our status as a registered same-sex partnership, our registration would have no standing in helping battle that discrimination.