Lawmakers in Thailand overwhelmingly approve a bill to legalize same-sex marriage

Lawmakers in Thailand’s lower house of Parliament have overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill that would make the country the first in Southeast Asia to legalize equal rights for marriage partners of any gender

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

BANGKOK (AP) — Lawmakers in Thailand's lower house of Parliament overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill on Wednesday that would make the country the first in Southeast Asia to legalize equal rights for marriage partners of any gender.

The bill passed its final reading with the approval of 400 of the 415 members of the House of Representatives in attendance, with 10 voting against it, two abstaining and three not voting.

Thailand has a reputation for acceptance and inclusivity but has struggled for decades to pass a marriage equality law. Thai society largely holds conservative values, and members of the LGBTQ+ community say they face discrimination in everyday life. The government and state agencies are also historically conservative, and advocates for gender equality have had a hard time pushing lawmakers and civil servants to accept change.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which rarely rejects any legislation that passes the lower house, and then to the king for royal endorsement. This would make Thailand the first country or region in Southeast Asia to pass such a law and the third in Asia, after Taiwan and Nepal.

The bill amends the Civil and Commercial Code to change the words “men and women” and “husband and wife” to “individuals” and “marriage partners.” It would open up access to full legal, financial and medical rights for LGBTQ+ couples.

Danuphorn Punnakanta, a spokesperson of the governing Pheu Thai party and president of a committee overseeing the marriage equality bill, said in Parliament that the amendment is for “everyone in Thailand” regardless of their gender, and would not deprive heterosexual couples of any rights.

“For this law, we would like to return rights to the (LGBTQ+ group). We are not giving them rights. These are the fundamental rights that this group of people … has lost,” he said.

Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn of the human rights organization Fortify Rights called the approval of the bill a historic moment for Thailand and the LGBTQ+ community.

She noted, however, that lawmakers did not approve the inclusion of the word “parent” in addition to “father and mother” in the law, which activists said would limit the parental rights of LGBTQ+ couples.

The new government led by Pheu Thai, which took office last year, has made marriage equality one of its main goals.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP