Thailand passes landmark bill to legalise same-sex marriage

Country will become first in Southeast Asia to recognise marriage equality.

Activists from the LGBTQ community celebrate after Thailand’s Senate passes a marriage equality bill in Bangkok on June 18, 2024 [Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP]Published On 18 Jun 202418 Jun 2024

Thailand’s Senate has passed a marriage equality bill, paving the way for the country to become the first in Southeast Asia to recognise same-sex marriage.

The upper house on Tuesday approved the measure in its final reading – with 130 votes in favour from the 152 members in attendance, four against and 18 abstentions.

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The legislation will now go to King Maha Vajiralongkorn for assent, a formality that is widely expected to be granted. It will come into force 120 days after it is published in the royal gazette.

Once the law takes effect, Thailand will become the third Asian jurisdiction after Nepal and Taiwan to legalise gay marriage.

LGBTQ advocates called the move a “monumental step forward“.

The legislation labels marriage as a partnership between two individuals and change references to “men”, “women”, “husbands” and “wives” to gender-neutral terms. It would also grant LGBTQ couples inheritance and adoption rights equal to those of heterosexual marriages.

While Thailand is known for its vibrant LGBTQ culture and tolerance, activists have struggled for decades against conservative attitudes.

Many have criticised laws for failing to recognise transgender and nonbinary people, who will still not be allowed to change their gender on official identity documents.

“We are very proud to make history,” said Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, a member of a parliamentary committee on same-sex marriage.

“Today, love triumphed over prejudice … after fighting for more than 20 years. Today, we can say that this country has marriage equality.”

Politicians and activists were seen celebrating in the National Assembly, waving rainbow flags and smiling, with some raising their fists in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

In March, the lower house approved the bill nearly unanimously with only 10 of the 415 sitting lawmakers voting against it.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who has been vocal in his support for the LGBTQ community and the measure, will open his official residence to activists and supporters for celebrations.

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

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

Members of the LGBTQ community participate in the Gay Freedom Day Parade in Bangkok, Thailand [File: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies