In Thailand

Thailand poised to legalise same-sex marriage after parliament passes bill

Written by World News

Lawmakers in Thailand’s lower house of parliament have overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill that would make the country the first in south-east Asia to legalise equal rights for marriage partners of any gender.

Four hundred of 415 lawmakers present voted for the bill on Wednesday and footage from inside parliament showed people standing and applauding afterwards.

In a post on X, Danuphorn Punnakanta, a spokesperson for the majority Pheu Thai party and president of the committee overseeing the marriage equality bill, said: “The right to equality in Thailand has begun today. It is the beginning, and further legislation for people’s rights and freedom will follow.”

The bill must now be approved by the senate and endorsed by the Thai king. After this endorsement, the bill would be published in the Royal Gazette and become law after 60 days.

If that happens, Thailand will follow Taiwan and Nepal as the only countries in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage.

The Pheu Thai post added: “Today is considered a good sign that Thailand will be the first country in south-east Asia to have equal marriage laws. It raises the level of Thailand in the eyes of the world.”

In a statement published prior to the vote, Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, human rights associate at Fortify Rights, said: “Thailand is close to becoming the first country in south-east Asia to ensure marriage rights for LGBTI+ couples, which is a cause for celebration; however, certain shortcomings in the current draft must be addressed to ensure all rights extend to LGBTI+ persons.”

Versions of the legislation had debated by the national assembly since December, before the cabinet of the prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, sent the bill to Parliament.

Four draft bills on same-sex marriage were put forward by different political parties, and these were then consolidated into one, though the text is not public yet. This context will be key.

Yangyuenpradorn added: “Before the final reading of the bill by the lower house, it is imperative that parliamentarians eliminate the presence of gendered language in the current draft that may limit rights for LGBTI+ persons, particularly rights for LGBTI+ couples with children.”

According to the Pheu Thai post, Punnakanta’s committee in charge of consolidating the draft bills “considered that some sections of the motion contain wording that is inconsistent with the current social context. Therefore, the wording has been adjusted to be appropriate for gender equality”.

Same-sex marriage legislation has been discussed in Thailand for more than a decade, but political turmoil and disagreements on the approach prevented the issue from moving this far.

In 2020, the constitutional court ruled that the country’s marriage law, which recognises heterosexual couples, was constitutional while recommending that it be expanded to ensure the rights of other types of couples.

At this stage, Thailand is well ahead of the rest of south-east Asia on same-sex marriage. Vietnam abolished penalties for holding same-sex marriages in 2013, but does not legally recognise such unions. Malaysia, Myanmar, and Brunei, on the other hand, criminalise same-sex sexual activity.

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