Thailand nears historic approval of marriage equality bill

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

Thailand is on the verge of making history by passing the Marriage Equality Bill, which is set to undergo its final round of Senate voting this month. If approved, the bill could come into effect by the end of the year, making Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to endorse gender equality in marriage.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin assured the LGBTQ+ communities that Thailand aims to be a safe and welcoming destination for all. The Marriage Equality Bill, also known as the Bill of Civil and Commercial Code Amendment, seeks to amend existing marriage laws to ensure same-sex couples have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

The journey towards this legislation began in 2001, when Interior Minister Purachai Piamsomboon proposed a law allowing same-sex marriage. He questioned whether Thailand was ready to accept same-sex marriage and cited examples of other countries that had already passed similar laws. Despite his efforts, the proposal was rejected by then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and faced significant opposition from other politicians.

The idea resurfaced in 2019 under the administration of General Prayut Chan-o-cha as a civil partnership bill. By 2022, the House of Representatives had approved both a civil partnership bill and a marriage equality bill, but these measures were dropped when parliament was dissolved ahead of the general election on May 14 last year.

In December, the lower house passed four marriage equality bills proposed by the Cabinet, the Move Forward Party, the Democrat Party, and civil society groups. A House committee then consolidated these bills, primarily drawing from the cabinet’s proposal.

On March 27, the House passed the consolidated Marriage Equality Bill. Advocates argue that the law is necessary to reflect the changing nature of family institutions in Thailand, which now include same-sex couples who deserve the same legal rights and protections as heterosexual couples.

Marriage equality

The bill passed its first Senate reading on April 2 and is currently being reviewed by a 27-member committee composed of senators, civil society members, and ministers. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill again on June 18. Should the Senate reject the bill, the lower house has the option to call for a new round of voting to pass the law without Senate approval.

The law, once approved, is expected to take effect 120 days after its publication in the Royal Gazette, following parliamentary approval and royal endorsement. The bill will grant same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children, manage and inherit assets, divorce, state welfare benefits if their spouses are civil servants, and tax deductions.

Marriage registration will be open to individuals aged 18 or above, with those under 20 requiring parental consent. The bill also introduces gender-neutral terms, referring to married couples as two individuals rather than a man and a woman and changing husband and wife to spouses.

Foreign LGBTQ+ individuals will also benefit from the bill, as it allows them to register their marriage in Thailand or with their Thai spouses. Foreign same-sex couples will gain the right to a spousal visa once the bill takes effect.

The law is expected to foster greater understanding among different groups, strengthen family institutions, empower LGBTQ+ children and families, and bolster Thailand’s reputation as a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights on the global stage.

However, some sections of the bill still require amendments. For instance, Section 1453, which pertains to a woman’s ability to remarry after her husband dies or divorces, currently only applies to biological women and does not consider transmen who can bear children. Additionally, the terms father and mother have yet to be amended to a more inclusive language, such as a first-level guardian, reported Bangkok Post.

Civil groups suggest using gender-neutral terms to ensure inclusive guardianship for all families. There is also a call to amend related laws concerning gender identity, as transmen and transwomen are still legally recognised by their birth genders rather than their preferred genders.

Thailand News

Bright Choomanee

With a degree in English from Srinakharinwirot University, Bright specializes in writing engaging content. Her interests vary greatly, including lifestyle, travel, and news. She enjoys watching series with her orange cat, Garfield, in her free time.

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