The assembly of Tokyo, Japan's Shibuya ward on Tuesday approved a plan to recognize the relationships of gay and lesbian couples as the “equivalent of a marriage.”

According to the AP, a majority of the ward's 34 legislators favored the proposal, which only applies to Shibuya – a dense district known as a fashion center that is home to more than 217,000 residents – and is technically not legally binding. Enforcement will consist of making public the names of violators.

Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara told reporters recently that the legislation's purpose “is to realize a society where everyone can live in hope.”

Lesbian couple Koyuki Higashi and Hiroko Masuhara (pictured) said that they moved to Shibuya four months ago in anticipation that they could marry.

“To marry the same sex is no different from marrying the opposite sex,” said Higashi.

Shibuya will become the first municipality in Japan to recognize such unions when the measure takes effect in July.