News (World)

Thailand’s House of Representatives passes marriage equality bill

Thousands of LGBTQ+ people and their supporters march through central Bangkok on June 4, 2023, marking Pride month
Thousands of LGBTQ+ people and their supporters march through central Bangkok on June 4, 2023, marking Pride month Photo: Shutterstock

Same-sex couples in Thailand may soon have the same legal rights to marry as those in heterosexual relationships, thanks to a bill that was passed in the country’s parliament on Wednesday.

As the Associated Press reports, the bill would amend Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code, swapping existing language like “men and women” and “husband and wife” for “individuals” and “marriage partners,” and thus granting same-sex couples the same rights under the law enjoyed by people in heterosexual relationships.

The bill passed Wednesday by an overwhelming majority, with 400 of the Thai House of Representatives 415 lawmakers voting in favor and only ten voting against it. Two others chose to abstain, and three did not vote, according to the AP. A consolidation of four previous marriage equality bills that passed in December, Wednesday’s bill had support from all of Thailand’s major political parties, CNN reports.

Thailand enjoys a reputation as a particularly LGBTQ+-friendly country, and a poll last November found that 96.6% of the public supports marriage equality. But lawmakers have struggled to move beyond debate around the issue. The country’s Constitutional Court ruled in 2020 that current law limiting marriage rights to heterosexual couples was constitutional and recommended that lawmakers introduce legislation to expand marriage rights to LGBTQ+ couples. Marriage equality became a prominent issue in the recent election, with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin campaigning in favor of it and promising to bring a bill before Parliament.

Speaking to Parliament on Wednesday, Danuphorn Punnakanta, spokesperson of the governing Pheu Thai party and the head of the committee that drafted the bill, said that it would “reduce disparity in society and start creating equality” for all Thai people.

The proposed law, he said, would “return rights to the [LGBTQ+ group].”

“We are not giving them rights. These are the fundamental rights that this group of people… has lost,” he said, inviting lawmakers “to make history.”

Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, an activist and member of the committee overseeing the bill, reiterated its historic nature and potential to “change Thai society forever.”

“The social situation has changed, and it is time that the law should catch up with the current situation,” she said.

According to Reuters, the bill also gives LGBTQ+ couples the same rights as heterosexual couples concerning inheritance and adoption. But it does not change the words “father” and “mother” to “parents,” something LGBTQ+ advocates had pushed for. Activists said that would still limit same-sex couples’ parental rights under the law.

“I’m happy indeed but this isn’t a full marriage equality, it is only same-sex marriage,” LGBTQ+ advocate and Mae Fah Luang University law lecturer Nada Chaiyajit told Reuters. “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.”

The bill now goes to the Thai Senate for approval, which is likely to pass it, before heading to the desk of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, a process that could take months, according to CNN. If approved, the law would take effect 120 days later and would make Thailand the third Asian country, along with Taiwan and Nepal, to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first in Southeast Asia.

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