Thai Same-Sex Marriage Bill Clears Final Hurdle With Senate

(Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s same-sex marriage bill cleared its final hurdle with the Senate endorsing it in a special session Tuesday, putting the nation on course to be the first in Southeast Asia to guarantee marriage equality.

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The 250-member upper house voted with 130 in support of the bill that was passed by the elected House of Representatives in March. Four senate members voted against the bill while eight abstained.

“It is an important starting point for gender diversity to flourish on an equal basis with other genders in Thai society,” the ruling Pheu Thai Party said in a post on X. “This will provide a crucial opportunity to host World Pride 2030, which the Thai government wants to happen.”

Thailand will become the third in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage, after Taiwan and Nepal, and rank among some 40 countries around the world to guarantee equal marital rights. The nation stands out in Southeast Asia where there has been little progress in recognizing the rights of the LGBTQ community which often faces discrimination.

The so-called marriage equality bill is technically an amendment to Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code. The legislation will come into force 120 days after it’s published in the Royal Gazette following a royal endorsement.

Under the new laws, Thailand will recognize marriage registrations of same-sex partners age 18 and above, along with their rights to inheritance, tax allowances and child adoption, among others. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s administration has made it a signature issue, and advocates say it would also burnish Thailand’s reputation as an LGBTQ-friendly tourist destination.

LGBTQ activists in Thailand have fought for over a decade for the same rights to marry as heterosexual couples. Although Thai laws have protected LGBTQ people from most kinds of discrimination since 2015, attempts to formalize marriage rights had stalled.

“Some seniors have been fighting for this for more than 20 years,” Siraphob Attohi, a 25 year-old activist with Free Gender Thailand, told Bloomberg by phone. “LGBTQ couples, who have been together for about 30 years, will finally have a chance to obtain legal rights under this bill.”

As a next step, LGBTQ groups in Thailand plan to push for draft bills for legal recognition of gender-diverse and non-binary people, Siraphob said. Draft legislation to safeguard the rights of LGBTQ people as well as laws to protect sex workers are also on the agenda, Siraphob added.

Srettha’s government has vowed to push ahead with more progressive laws, including legislation to recognize gender identity and legalize prostitution. The health ministry has also proposed legalizing commercial surrogacy to allow LGBTQ couples to adopt children.

Move Forward, Thailand’s largest opposition party, said it was a lawmaker from its predecessor, Future Forward Party, who submitted the same-sex marriage bill four years ago on June 18.

Ex-Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat, a former prime minister hopeful, said history was being made with politicians from both the upper and lower house responding to what the people want.

“This confirms that love is love in Thailand,” Pita said in parliament.

--With assistance from Janine Phakdeetham.

(Updates throughout with comments from political parties, LGBTQ activist)

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