Thai parliament passes same-sex marriage bill

Pending final approval, bill will cement Thai credentials among Asia’s most liberal societies on LGBTQ issues.

Thai LGBT community participates in Gay Freedom Day Parade in Bangkok, Thailand November 29, 2018.
Thai LGBTQ community participates in a Gay Freedom Day Parade in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 29, 2018 [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

Thailand is set to become the first Southeast Asian nation to recognise equal marriage after politicians passed a same-sex marriage bill.

The lower house of parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of the bill, with 400 supporting its passage and just 10 against it in a final reading on Wednesday. Should the bill take effect, Thailand would be just the third Asian country to legalise gay marriage.

The bill now requires approval from the country’s Senate, and finally endorsement from the king, before becoming law. More than a decade in the making, the legislation could take effect within 120 days of royal approval.

“I want to invite you all to make history,” said Danuphorn Punnakanta, chairman of the parliamentary committee, ahead of the vote. “We did this for all Thai people to reduce disparity in society and start creating equality.”

The legislation would change references to “men”, “women”, “husbands” and “wives” in the marriage law to gender-neutral terms. It would also grant LGBTQ couples inheritance and adoption rights equal to those of heterosexual marriages.

While Thailand enjoys a welcoming reputation for the international LGBTQ community, activists have struggled for decades against conservative attitudes and values.

The Constitutional Court in 2020 ruled that current matrimonial law, which only recognises heterosexual couples, was constitutional. But it also recommended legislation be expanded to ensure minorities’ rights.

In December, the parliament approved the first readings of four different draft bills on same-sex marriage and tasked a committee to consolidate them into a single draft.

On the news that the bill had been approved, one representative brought a huge rainbow flag into the chamber.

Across Asia, only Taiwan and Nepal recognise same-sex marriage.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies