About 20 companies in Japan will start accepting “partnership certificates,” issued to same-sex couples by a nongovernmental organization, from July as a way of providing employees with spousal and familial benefits that are available to straight married couples, people familiar with the matter said Saturday. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. is among companies participating in the initiative, with certificates to be created by Famiee Project. The program is expected to raise awareness of the difficulties LGBT couples face in a country where same-sex marriage is not legally recognized. “We want to start changing where we can through the private sector, so that families of same-sex couples can be recognized as normal,” said Famiee founder Koki Uchiyama. Local authorities have started issuing partnership certificates in an attempt to smooth the path, as much as possible, for sexual minorities that face obstacles in gaining equal access to public housing or in making medical decisions for their partners.