Thailand moves closer to legalising same-sex unions

In World
March 27, 2024


Thailand’s parliament overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill on Wednesday, a landmark step that moves one of Asia’s most liberal countries closer to becoming its third territory to legalise same-sex unions.

The bill had the support of all of Thailand’s major parties and was more than a decade in the making. It still requires approval from the Senate and endorsement from the king before it becomes law and would take effect 120 days later.

The legislation was passed by 400 of the 415 lawmakers present, with only 10 voting against it and could see Thailand join Taiwan and Nepal in allowing same-sex unions.

“We did this for all Thai people to reduce disparity in society and start creating equality,” Danuphorn Punnakanta, chairman of the parliamentary committee on the draft bill, told lawmakers ahead of the reading.

Read also: Activists hail Nepal ruling allowing same-sex marriage

“I want to invite you all to make history.”

The bill’s passage marks a significant step towards cementing Thailand’s position as one of Asia’s most liberal countries on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, with openness and progressive attitudes coexisting in society alongside traditional, conservative Buddhist values.

Thailand has long been a draw for same-sex couples, with a vibrant and visible LGBT social scene for locals and expatriates, and targeted campaigns to attract LGBT travellers.

Equal rights guaranteed

But rights activists have long maintained its laws and institutions do not reflect changing social attitudes and still discriminate against LGBT people and same-sex couples.

The legislation passed on Wednesday is the consolidation of four different draft bills and recognises marriage between two people regardless of gender, rather than a husband and wife as previously defined.

It grants a couple full rights of a married couple under the country’s civil and commercial code, including those concerning inheritance and adopting children.

The Constitutional Court had in 2021 ruled Thailand’s current marriage law, which only recognises heterosexual couples, was constitutional, recommending legislation be expanded to ensure rights of other genders.

An LGBT activist attends an International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia at Bangkok's Art Center, Thailand, May 17, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

An LGBT activist attends an International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia at Bangkok’s Art Center, Thailand, May 17, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

Nada Chaiyajit, an LGBT advocate and a law lecturer at Mae Fah Luang University, said the passing of the bill was a positive step but there were some unresolved issues.

LGBT advocates who were on the parliamentary committee had during Wednesday’s debate pushed unsuccessfully for the terms “father” and “mother” to be changed to the gender-neutral “parent” in references to the family unit, to avoid complications in issues such as adoption.

“I’m happy indeed but this isn’t a full marriage equality, it is only same-sex marriage,” Nada said. “The right to marriage has been granted but not the full right to family establishment.

“It is a shame that we didn’t go the full way.”

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