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Thailand Passes Marriage Equality Bill, A First in Southeast Asia

Thailand will become the first nation in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage after the kingdom’s Senate approved a marriage equality bill on June 18, with supporters calling it a “monumental step forward for LGBTQ+ rights.”

First Nation in Southeast Asia

The Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of passing the bill following a final reading, with 130 senators voting in favor. Only four members opposed the bill. The bill still requires endorsement from the king before marriage equality can become reality in Thailand, but this process is considered a formality. The law will then come into effect 120 days after it is published in the royal gazette. The result of the vote means that Thailand will become only the third place in Asia to allow for marriage equality after Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage in 2019 and Nepal in 2023.

Marriage equality bill to Parliament

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, of the Pheu Thai Party, had also promised to bring the marriage equality bill to parliament. Dressed in a rainbow shirt, Srettha attended Pride Month celebrations in Bangkok earlier in June, joining a massive parade through the capital’s streets. It is a basic right to choose who to love,” he said in a post on June 1. Srettha has been keen to showcase Thailand as a welcoming destination for LGBTQ+ people, including voicing support for a bid to host World Pride in 2030.

About the bill

The bill represents a monumental step forward for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand, Panyaphon Phiphatkhunarnon, founder of Love Foundation – an NGO campaigning for LGBTQ+ equality in Thailand. “The potential impact of this bill is immense. It would not only change the lives of countless couples but also contribute to a more just and equitable society for all.

Inspiration for Younger generation

The bill grants LGBTQ+ couples the same legal rights and recognition as heterosexual couples, including rights related to inheritance, adoption and health care decision-making. Beyond the legal implications, the passage of this bill would send a powerful message of acceptance and inclusion. It would inspire the younger generation to come out and live their lives authentically, it would showcase Thailand as a progressive and inclusive country – attracting tourists and businesses … and will foster a culture change where LGBTQ+ individuals feel accepted and supported.

The thoughts of Bangkok residents

Bangkok residents Pokpong Jitjaiyai and Watit Benjamonkolchai say they plan to get married as soon as the law is passed. When I was young, people said people like us couldn’t have a family, can’t have children, so marriage was impossible. “Over 10 years ago, we could not live together the way we are now. We could never be our true selves, the way it is now… and now I can freely say that I am gay.” Pokpong said he hopes the marriage equality bill will start a “domino effect” in other countries. “I want the people around the world see how love is. Love is love,” he said.

Supported by all

The marriage equality bill was supported by all the major parties and marks a significant step in cementing the country’s reputation as one of the friendliest in the region toward gay, lesbian and transgender people. Previous attempts to legalize marriage equality over the past decade had stalled. In 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that Thailand’s current law, which stipulates marriage being between a man and a woman, was constitutional. Some of the major political parties contesting last year’s election pledged to push marriage equality as part of their campaign, including the progressive Move Forward Party, which won the most seats. But that party, which had a huge youth following, was unable to form a government when former rivals joined forces to keep it out of office. Both the future of the party and of its popular former leader Pita Limjaroenrat remain uncertain as they face a slew of prosecutions.

Looking Forward

We have come far in our journey towards social equality. I want to reaffirm my government’s commitment in pushing for the realization of the Equal Marriage Bill which today we can visibly see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Srettha said. We look forward to hosting of the World Pride in 2030 in Thailand.

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