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Thailand closer to legalizing same-sex marriage

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This week, a committee of Thai lawmakers examining draft bills on marriage equality called on influential members of Thailand’s LGBTQ community and officials from several ministries to provide input as the country takes a big step toward legalizing same-sex marriage.

It comes after lawmakers passed the first reading of four draft bills on marriage equality in late December.

Should no issues arise, another vote in parliament will take place in just over two weeks, with another reading afterward. One of the bills will likely be sent before the Thai Senate and then for royal approval to decide whether to sign the bill into law.

If the proposal is approved and becomes law, Thailand will become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

After the reading in December, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin wrote on social media, “Today is the first step of change.”

A new law to reflect Thai openness

Thailand has one of the most open LGBTQ communities in Asia, but activists have said Thai conservative laws do not represent the community despite the changing social attitudes in the country.

A proposal to legalize same-sex marriage isn’t new. The reformist Move Forward Party had pledged to push a marriage equality bill during the general elections.

Thailand’s new government, which is now led by Prime Minister Thavisin of the Pheu Thai party, also promised to support same-sex marriage legislation.   

Pro-LGBTQ lawmakers and activists have been pushing for a same-sex marriage bill to be passed for several years.

“This is the right time,” Nachale Boonyapisomparn, vice president of the Foundation of Transgender Alliance for Human Rights, told an event at the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand in Bangkok after the reading in December.

“Our government is listening to the people. We have the right resources, the right time and the right people who want to contribute to the cause. We have to acknowledge the contribution of many activists.”

Nada Chaiyajit, a lecturer of law at Mae Fah Luang University in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand, said that the overwhelming support of lawmakers in parliament for the draft bills is a sign that same-sex marriage could become enshrined in law this year.

“The wind of change is coming. We might celebrate marriage equality next year [2024] during pride month,” Nada told the Foreign Correspondents Club.

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LGBTQ rights a political win for Thailand

During the last pride month in June 2023, huge crowds turned out to celebrate during parades in Bangkok. Srettha has said he hoped the Thai capital will one day host “WorldPride,” a series of international LGBTQ pride events.

“I think it’s a positive sign to see the Thai parliament finally prioritize marriage equality and approve the bill in its first reading,” said Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, Thailand human rights associate at Fortify Rights, a Southeast Asia rights advocacy group.

Prolonged delays mean prolonged discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and we have already been waiting for too long for these fundamental rights,” Mookdapa added.

The passing of the marriage equality bill would also be a big win for Srettha and his Pheu Thai government.

His party angered young voters after they formed a government coalition with conservative, pro-military and royal parties. This came after popular vote winners, the Move Forward Party were blocked from leading the government by the Thai Senate.

Pheu Thai was then given passage to lead, despite not winning the election in May.

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And with Thailand so reliant on its tourism economy, legalized same-sex marriage could also provide another way to drive up foreign visitors.

Thailand has emerged as a popular destination for foreign weddings in recent years, with Thailand’s Tourism Authority pointing out that the wedding industry produces high economic value.

Law lecturer Nada Chaiyajit, however, said passing the law should be based on equal rights and not economic incentives.

“The equality bill should not be just something to attract economic gain. Consequentially, in the deliberation for the second reading, the parliament should be clear they respect human rights and do not just want to attract foreign investment from other countries.”

Edited by: Wesley Rahn 


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