Thailand Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Thailand’s Senate has voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, making the country the first in Southeast Asia to enact such a law. This landmark decision follows years of advocacy for acceptance and inclusivity by the LGBTQ+ community. While Thailand has strived for decades to pass a marriage equality law, societal conservatism and discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals have posed challenges. The government and state agencies have historically held conservative views, making it difficult for advocates to push for change. Thailand will now join Taiwan and Nepal as the third Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage. The marriage equality bill, granting full legal, financial, and medical rights to partners of any gender, passed the House of Representatives in April with overwhelming support. The Senate’s final reading on Tuesday, with 130 out of 152 members voting in favor, confirms the bill’s passage.

The bill will now require the King’s endorsement and publication in the Government Gazette, setting a date within 120 days for its implementation. The urgency to pass the bill is evident in the timing of the Senate’s vote, which falls at the end of the current parliamentary session. The legislation will amend the Civil and Commercial Code, replacing gender-specific terms like “men and women” with gender-neutral terms such as “individual”.

Despite the overwhelming support, one Senate member, retired army Gen. Worapong Sa-nganet, argued for the retention of gender-specific terms alongside gender-neutral ones, citing concerns about the “subversion of the institution of family”. However, the vote reflects a shift in societal values towards greater acceptance and inclusivity. Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, an 18-year-old non-binary individual, expressed gratitude for the legislation’s passage, calling it a “force of hope” for a more inclusive Thailand.

The government, confident of the bill’s passage, held a celebratory event at Government House, featuring rainbow carpets, flags, and a giant heart-shaped balloon. Politicians, celebrities, diplomats, and LGBTQ+ activists participated in a colorful parade from Parliament to the Government House. The Prime Minister, unable to attend due to a recent COVID-19 diagnosis, expressed his pride and gratitude for the achievement on social media.

Human rights organizations have lauded the bill’s passage as a “triumph for justice and human rights”. They emphasize the importance of swift and effective implementation to ensure the protection of LGBTQ+ rights. The Pheu Thai-led government, which has made marriage equality a key goal, has actively embraced the LGBTQ+ community, participating in the annual Bangkok Pride parade.