Metro Weekly

Thailand Makes History by Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

Thailand passed a bill that moves the country a step closer to becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to legalize marriage equality.

Thailand’s Government House decked out in Pride colors to celebrate passage of the same-sex marriage bill. – Photo: Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, via Instagram

Thailand’s Senate voted to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, putting the country on the cusp of becoming the first in Southeast Asia to enact such a law.

The bill changes references in current law from gender-specific terms like “man,” “woman,” husband,” and “wife” to gender-neutral terms.

It recognizes the inheritance rights of one partner following the other partner’s death, regardless of gender, and grants same-sex couples the right to adopt.

The bill was previously approved in March by a vote of 400-10 in the country’s lower house of parliament. On Tuesday, June 18, the Senate passed it 130-4, with 18 members abstaining.

Thailand has generally been considered supportive of the LGBTQ community, particularly LGBTQ tourists, throughout its history. Public opinion polls appear to show near-universal support for legalizing same-sex marriage, although the larger society tends to embrace more traditional views of marriage and family.

Thai culture has also historically been more accepting and tolerant of gender diversity and gender-nonconformity than other cultures. The country has been a destination for transgender individuals seeking out gender-affirming health care, although there are no laws explicitly protecting transgender individuals from discrimination and no process in place for people to change the gender marker on their vital documents.

Despite the prevalence of generally more pro-LGBTQ attitudes, the country’s lawmakers had been reticent to pass a marriage equality bill.

The center-right Pheu Thai party, which took office last year, endorsed the idea of marriage equality, but some political observers were skeptical that the party and its coalition members would ultimately follow through on their promise.

The approved bill now needs King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s pro forma endorsement, followed by its publication in the Government Gazette, which will set a date within 120 days for the law to take effect.

Once the waiting period is over, Thailand will officially become the third country in Asia — after Taiwan and Nepal — and the first in Southeast Asia, to allow same-sex marriage.

The government was so confident of the bill’s passage that it announced several days ago it would host a celebration at Government House on Tuesday, with politicians, celebrities, diplomats, and activists in attendance.

The ground in front of the main building were decorated with rainbow carpets, flags, and a giant balloon in the shape of two hands making a heart sign.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, absent from the event after testing positive for COVID-19, praised the bill’s passage, writing on X, “I am proud of the collective effort of all stakeholders which reiterates the power of ‘unity in diversity’ of the Thai society. We will continue our fight for social rights for all people regardless of their status.”

Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn of the human rights organization Fortify Rights called the passage of the marriage equality law a “triumph for justice and human rights.”

“The Thai government must now focus on ensuring swift and effective implementation of this law to safeguard LGBTI+ rights,” she said. “Marriage equality is fundamental to human dignity, and it is essential that Thailand protects these rights without delay or discrimination.”

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