Thai Parliament Set to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage By Year’s End, Official Says

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Thai Parliament Set to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage By Year’s End, Official Says

A same-sex marriage amendment has passed its first reading in the country’s House of Representatives.

Thai Parliament Set to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage By Year’s End, Official Says

Participants hold a rainbow flag during a Pride Parade in Bangkok, Thailand, on June 4, 2023.

Credit: AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File

Thailand’s plan to legalize same-sex marriage will take another step toward realization sometime later this year, with the country’s lawmakers set to approve a draft bill next week.

On Thursday of last week, Bloomberg reported, a committee set up by the House of Representatives approved a draft amendment to the country’s Civil and Commercial Code that will make Thailand the first in Southeast Asia to guarantee equal marital rights.

Once the bill clears the elected lower house, it will need final approval from the Senate. It will then require an endorsement from King Vajiralongkorn. Speaking to reporters, Akaranun Khankittinan, a deputy chairman of the panel, said that the process is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

At that point, Thailand will become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, and the third in Asia after Taiwan and Nepal.

The country has been moving in this direction for some time. Back in December, the House of Representatives approved four proposed laws legalizing same-sex marriage, including one proposed by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government, which promised to legalize same-sex marriage in the run-up to last year’s general election. The remaining three drafts were submitted by the opposition Move Forward and Democrat parties, and a coalition of civil society groups. The House Committee was then formed to amalgamate them into a single bill, which will be the subject of next week’s deliberations.

At the time, the human rights organization Amnesty International praised the development, saying that Thailand “has the opportunity to set a bold example for LGBTI people’s rights in this region.”

As Bloomberg explains, the bill, like the various constituent proposals that fed into it, proposes a fundamental change to the composition of a marriage, from “a man and a woman” to “two individuals.” It will also change their official legal status from “husband and wife” to “married couple.”

Thailand has long been seen by many as a relative haven for LGBTQ people. It 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. But human rights activists say that the Thai law continues to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBTQ people, and progress toward a marriage equality bill has been halting, even though recent public opinion polls show that the idea enjoys widespread – even overwhelming – public support.

The more conservative government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha proposed a civil union bill that would have permitted same-sex couples the right to adopt children, jointly manage assets and liabilities, and inherit properties – all of which rights are also contained in the current bill – but fell short of full legalization of marriage. Lawmakers debated the bill last year but they did not come to a final vote before the session ended, ahead of the election in May 2023.