One Japanese way around this has been for the older partner to legally adopt the younger partner so that family benefits can be received.
Via Japan Press Weekly, here is the case of one man’s fight to win equal benefits.
February 6, 2017
A gay worker in Hyogo Prefecture has succeeded in persuading his employer to provide him with the same treatment as a married straight person.
The worker, Kishimoto Takashi, lives with a male partner and works for a co-operative hospital in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture. In November 2016, the 42-year-old worker became eligible for various fringe benefits which had been extended only to persons with opposite-sex spouses. For example, Kishimoto now has a right to take paid leave when his partner or the partner’s close family member dies or gets married.
As an openly gay man, Kishimoto has long been championing the rights of sexual minorities. He came out in his workplace more than ten years ago. Since then, through daily conversations, Kishimoto has made efforts to raise awareness about LGBTs’ rights among his colleagues.
After turning 40, Kishimoto came to think that he and his partner need to somehow become a family in legal terms. As Japan’s Civil Code does not have a provision concerning same-sex marriages, Kishimoto adopted his partner as his son last year and asked his employer to provide him with the same treatment as a person who has a family.
In response, the medical coop, which is affiliated with the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions (Min-iren), in November 2016 decided to change the workplace rules to widen the definition of “marriage” to include same-sex partnerships with some kind of official certificate into the definition. Thanks to this change, Kishimoto now can apply for various benefits just as his married colleagues can. In addition, the partner of any gay worker in the coop hospital is now an eligible dependent in the spouse’s health insurance plan.
Funakoshi Masanobu, chief director of the medical coop, said that he hopes this revision in the workplace rules will contribute to making society more inclusive.
In a small victory for LGBTQ rights, his workplace – the Hyogo-based hospital – has completely changed its working rules to allow LGBTQ employees to equally avail of benefits they were previously denied because of their sexuality.
While it’s a creative work around, it isn’t ideal – but sometimes you just have to work with what you have available to push for change.
Here’s hoping that Kishimoto Takashi’s example will prove to be a template for other people (and companies) to follow.