Thai lower house approves final reading of same-sex marriage bill

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thai lower house approves final reading of same-sex marriage bill A member of the LGBTQ+ community holds a placard calling for marriage equality during a pride march in Bangkok on June 4, 2023.
Manan Vatsyayana/AFP

Thailand’s Parliament on Wednesday passed a same-sex marriage bill at the final reading, moving the country a step closer to becoming the first in Southeast Asia to provide equal marriage rights to LGBTQ+ persons.

The bill sailed through the lower house receiving 400 votes in favor and 10 against, according to deputy speaker Pichet Chuamuangphan.

The landmark legislation still requires approval from the conservative-leaning Senate and endorsement from the king before it becomes law – a process that would see Thailand join only Taiwan and Nepal in Asia in recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to wed.

“This law ensures that the rights of ordinary men and women are not diminished in any way. Your legal rights remain unchanged in all respects,” Danuporn Punnakan, chair of the special Committee reviewing the bill, told Parliament before the final reading.

“Simultaneously, this law will protect a group of people, whether they are called LGBT, transgender men, transgender women, or anything else.” 

Thailand boasts one of the most vibrant LGBTQ+ communities in Asia, and public surveys show that the bill enjoys overwhelming support.

However, discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals persists in the country, particularly in employment and health care, advocates say.

Same-sex couples were previously unable to adopt children, make emergency health care decisions for their partners, or access spousal benefits, including tax deductions and government pensions.

Kan Kerdmeemun (left) and Pakodchakon Wongsupha (right), who have been together for 30 years, pose for photos during a ceremony to unofficially wed LGBTQ+ couples on Valentine’s Day in Bangkok, Feb. 14, 2024. [Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP]

A key aspect of the bill is to allow “two individuals (of any gender)” to marry, amending current wording of the Civil and Commercial Code that specifies marriage as between a man and a woman. The change will allow spouses of all genders to manage assets and legally adopt children.

“A public opinion survey showed that 96.6% of the population agrees with this bill. The benefits of the act affirm the government's intention and policy to respect and promote human rights by amending unjust laws to ensure that everyone has the right to equally and fairly establish family relationships,” said Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin while presenting the bill for consideration.

Speaking before the vote, Pakodchakon Wongsupha, a 67-year-old woman with a transgender partner, said the amendments would provide social security and legal recognition. 

“If something went wrong that resulted in death, I wouldn't have the legal right to file any complaint like other legalized couples. It makes me hurt when I think about it. Every couple in this world, regardless of gender, should have the right to receive welfare benefits or legal recognition like anyone else,” Pakodchakon told BenarNews. 

Thailand’s road to approving same-sex marriage legislation has been years in the making. 

An earlier draft marriage equality bill, introduced by opposition lawmakers from the progressive Move Forward Party, reached its second reading in November 2022, but didn’t move beyond that because of a series of legislative delays after which the Parliament was dissolved in March ahead of the May general election. 

Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, a Southeast Asian human rights associate at Fortify Rights, said she hoped that Thailand's law could inspire other countries in Southeast Asia.

“While this law may not be 100% perfect, from the perspective of an international human rights organization, it makes Thailand’s legislation more aligned with international standards,” Mookdapa told BenarNews.

Wilawan Watcharasakwet and Ruj Chuenban in Bangkok contributed to this report.


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