News (World)

Thailand makes history as the first Southeastern Asian country likely to legalize gay marriage

A Pride flag at a Pride in Thailand
A Pride flag at a Pride in Thailand Photo: Shutterstock

Thailand’s Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill legalizing marriage equality, putting Thailand on the path to become the third country in Asia and the first in Southeastern Asia to legalize the practice.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin celebrated the victory on X, writing, “I am proud of the collective effort of all stakeholders which reiterates the power of ‘unity in diversity’ of the Thai society.”

“We will continue our fight for social rights for all people regardless of their status. As we celebrate today, we are proud to be a Pride Friendly Destination and look forward to bringing World Pride to Thailand in 2030,” Thavisin added.

Thavisin is a member of the populist Pheu Thai Party, known to be progressive on social issues but more akin to U.S. Democrats on economic policies. 

The Thai Senate voted to pass this bill overwhelmingly, with 130 members voting for it, four voting against it, and 18 abstaining. The House, which the bill passed through in April, voted similarly, with 400 members voting for it, 10 voting against it, and five abstaining.

The bill still has to be approved by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is projected to support its passing. Following that, it has to be posted in the Government Gazette, a journal that communicates new bills to the public. There, it’ll be given a time within 120 days to be enacted into law.

The bill will also allow LGBTQ+ couples to adopt children together, though it does not use gender-neutral language for that provision.

Thailand is projected to join two other Asian countries, Nepal and Taiwan, in legalizing marriage equality. However, according to Human Rights Watch, Nepal’s process for marriage equality is inconsistent and subjective based on which judge is ruling. This would make Thailand the second in Asia to have a fully legalized process by which LGBTQ+ couples can become married.

According to a statement Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsuthin gave to Reuters in 2023, 96.6% of all Thai people support marriage equality based on a government survey.

Political turmoil & cultural change follow Thailand’s military junta

The push for the legalization of marriage equality comes as an effort to appeal to progressives after the Senate blocked the left-wing Move Forward Party from coming into office during the last election. This was done in alliance with an eight-party coalition, which included the Pheu Thai Party which took over the House, the prime minister seat, and other parts of government.

Members of the Senate are prohibited from officially being members of political parties. The current composition — which is set to leave office in July — came into place following an appointment by the former ruling military junta or dictatorship. The junta took place from 2014 to 2019.

Prospective senators will be the first under Thai’s new governmental process to be appointed by either eligible voters or members of the cabinet.

This Senate, solely existing as a transition between the military junta and the current parliamentary democracy, appointed Thavisin as the Prime Minister last year against popular will.

Thailand is nevertheless known for being more inclusive of LGBTQ+ individuals than its neighboring countries. While many LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination from the socially conservative parts of the country, there is still strong support for queer rights seen both in the government and the populace.

Anti-discrimination bills have been passed recently, and efforts to legalize marriage equality go back decades. The country is also known to be a safe haven for transgender people, with many world-renowned surgeons in Thailand taking clients from other countries.

Booming Pride parades have been hosted throughout Thailand since the start of June, and queer television shows dedicated to ‘Boy Love’ receive wide support and acclaim. The country also has its own spinoff of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, a member of the human rights organization Fortify Rights, told NBC News, “The Thai government must now focus on ensuring swift and effective implementation of this law to safeguard LGBTI+ rights. Marriage equality is fundamental to human dignity, and it is essential that Thailand protects these rights without delay or discrimination.”

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