Thailand Takes Another Step Toward Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

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Thailand Takes Another Step Toward Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

The lower house overwhelmingly passed a package of four laws that would redefine marriage as a union between any two individuals.

Thailand Takes Another Step Toward Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage
Credit: Pixabay

Yesterday, Thai lawmakers resoundingly passed a package of four draft laws on same-sex marriage, moving the country a step closer to becoming Southeast Asia’s first nation to enshrine such unions in law.

According to the Bangkok Post, the draft legislation received nearly unanimous support in the lower house of Parliament and was approved by an overwhelming vote of 369 to 10, with one abstention, after several hours of debate and discussion.

The four bills debated included one tabled by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government, which promised to legalize same-sex marriage in the run-up to the general election in May.

Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsuthin told parliament that the draft law “is for the amendment of some provisions in the civic codes to open the way for lovers, regardless of their gender, to engage and get married,” Reuters reported. He added, “This will provide rights, responsibilities and family status as equal to the marriage between a man and a woman presently in all aspects.”

The Parliament also passed three other similar bills that were submitted by civil society groups, and the opposition Move Forward and Democrat parties. Like the government’s bill, these have proposed altering the definition of marriage from a union between “male and female” to one between “two individuals.”

The government will now form a committee to merge the four bills into one ahead of a further reading and possible votes next year. If and when the law is passed and endorsed by King Vajiralongkorn, Thailand will become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, and the third in Asia after Taiwan and Nepal.

Thailand has long been seen by many as a relative haven for LGBTQ people, and has a visible lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, especially in the capital Bangkok and the larger urban centers. It is also one of only nine Asian countries that signed a declaration of LGBTQ rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011. At the same time, however, Thailand has struggled to pass a marriage equality bill, and human rights activists say that Thai law continues to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBTQ people.

This is not necessarily because of a lack of public support. A survey conducted during the consultation period for the government’s draft bill found that 96.6 percent supported it, Reuters reported. BenarNews also cited a recent survey from Pew that found 60 percent of Thai adults support the legalization of same-sex marriage, behind only Japan (68 percent) and Vietnam (65 percent).

The slow progress is due rather to the government’s lack of political will, especially under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Last year, parliament debated a similar package of draft laws, including a more conservative bill drafted by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, but they did not come to a final vote before the session ended.

Yesterday’s vote marks a further step toward harmonizing Thailand’s reputation with the reality faced by the country’s LGBTQ couples. “We are finally on the road to bridging the gap to equal rights for all today!” Srettha wrote yesterday on the social media network X (formerly Twitter). “May love finally triumph,” he added, followed by a rainbow emoji.