Thailand Awaits Final Senate Vote on Marriage Equality Bill

Thailand is on the brink of making history with the upcoming final Senate vote on the Marriage Equality Bill this month. If passed, the bill could be enacted by the end of the year, marking Thailand as the first country in Southeast Asia to recognize gender equality in marriage.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has expressed the government’s commitment to making Thailand a safe and inclusive haven for the LGBTQ+ community.

This bill, formally titled the “Marriage Equality Bill” or the “Bill of Civil and Commercial Code Amendment,” seeks to revise existing marriage statutes and associated legal frameworks to grant same-sex couples the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

This idea was first suggested in 2001 by Interior Minister Purachai Piamsomboon, who advocated for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

In a statement made in April of that year, he posed the question, “Is it time for Thailand to accept same-sex marriage? Now we should consider what suits Thai society and what we can tolerate.”

He cited examples of nations that had legalized such unions, suggesting that Thailand should modernize its laws.

However, then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra rejected the proposal, stating that Thailand was not prepared to address homosexual matters, and faced opposition from many other politicians.

The proposal resurfaced during Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s tenure in 2019 as a civil partnership bill.

In 2022, both a civil partnership and a marriage equality bill were approved by the House of Representatives, but were shelved when the parliament was dissolved for the general elections on May 14, 2023.

In December of the previous year, the lower house passed four marriage equality bills introduced by various parties, including the cabinet and the civil sector, with a committee formed to review and primarily draw from the cabinet’s proposal.

On March 27, the House approved the marriage equality bill. The legislation underscores the importance of the family unit in social development and aims to enhance the living standards of citizens through inclusive family laws.

Currently, the Civil and Commercial Code only recognizes family formations between a man and a woman, a viewpoint increasingly seen as outdated given the diverse family structures in today’s society.

Amendments to some sections of the Civil and Commercial Code are necessary to allow same-sex couples the right to engage and marry.

The bill grants married same-sex couples the same legal rights, responsibilities, and family recognition as heterosexual couples, reinforcing the familial ties irrespective of gender.

The Senate conducted a first reading of the bill on April 2, which is now under review by a 27-member committee from the upper house, comprising senators, civil society representatives, and ministers. A Senate vote is scheduled for June 18.

If the Senate rejects the bill, the lower house has the option to reconvene and pass the legislation without Senate consent.

Following parliamentary approval and royal endorsement, the law would come into effect 120 days after its publication in the Royal Gazette.

The bill facilitates marriage for same-sex couples under the same legal provisions as heterosexual couples, including rights to adoption, asset management and inheritance, divorce, state welfare benefits if one spouse is a civil servant, and tax advantages.

Registration of marriage is permitted for individuals aged 18 and above; those under 20 must obtain parental approval.

The bill adopts gender-neutral language, referring to a married couple as “two individuals” instead of “a man and a woman,” and changes their legal designation from “husband and wife” to “spouses.”

LGBTQ+ individuals from any country can register their marriage in Thailand or with Thai partners, with foreign same-sex married couples eligible for a spousal visa upon the law’s enactment.