Monday, July 22, 2024
Thailand passes landmark bill legalizing same-sex marriage

Thailand passes landmark bill legalizing same-sex marriage

World News

Thailand’s Senate voted Tuesday to pass a marriage-equality bill, putting the country on track to become the first in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

The legislation, which passed with 130 senators in favor, four opposed and 18 abstaining, allows any two people, regardless of gender, to get engaged or married. It was approved by the House of Representatives in March and now must be endorsed by King Vajiralongkorn. Once it is published in the official journal of the Thai government, the law will go into effect after 120 days.

“We celebrate the successful passing of the marriage equality bill and we celebrate the beginning of equal love,” Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin wrote on X on Tuesday. “‘Diversity’ is not ‘difference.’ May every love be beautiful and powerful.”

The legislation will make Thailand among the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, according to Human Rights Watch.

Thailand has been “recognized as a place where sexual and gender minorities can live safely and openly,” Human Rights Watch said in a 2021 report, while noting that it offers few legal protections to transgender people. The advocacy group said after Tuesday’s vote that the legislation’s passage would provide “tangible legal protections” to LGBTQ+ people.


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“It will stand as an example of LGBT rights progress across the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” the group wrote in the report.

Three dozen countries legalized same-sex marriage before Thailand, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. Taiwan led the way in Asia in 2019. In Nepal, some same-sex marriages have begun to gain recognition under an interim order from the country’s top court. A final judgment is still in the works.

John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said governments in some parts of Southeast Asia have passed laws targeting LGTBQ+ people.

“What’s happening in Thailand is an outlier,” he said, adding that transgender people still face discrimination in the country.

A 2023 Pew Research Center survey found that 60 percent of adults in Thailand supported legalizing same-sex marriage. Thavisin, the prime minister, has emphasized that the Thai government is committed to marriage equality and touted Bangkok’s Pride parade this month.

“We will also continue our fight for social rights for all people regardless of their status,” he wrote on X.

The legislation that passed Tuesday also swaps out terms like “husband” and “wife” in Thai marriage law for gender-neutral language, such as “spouse.” One member of the Senate fought against that change. Retired army Gen. Worapong Sa-nganet said cutting those terms would be “a destruction of the family establishment in the most violent way.”

He added, “If there’s no term ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ in the law, it would disappear from the Thai language. That would affect the family establishment, how we define gender and the structure of society.”

But activist Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, 18, who was a member of the special committee set up to consider the bill, said on the Senate floor that Tuesday marked a historic step for Thai society and for future generations.

“We can now proudly say Thailand has equal marriage,” Shodladd said after the vote. “The definition of a family will change forever.”

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