MY TWO SATANGS
If you have a social media account you have no doubt come across someone using a pink equals sign on a red background as their profile picture recently. If you've seen the picture then I'm sure you already know that its use is intended as support for marriage equality in the US during the week that the Supreme Court decides whether to invalidate parts of the Federal Defence of Marriage Act.
Of course, equal rights for the LGBT community are not confined to the United States. Facebook and Twitter users here in Thailand have been showing their support for the cause too.
This is despite the fact that Thailand's views on sex and gender can easily leave one more confused than an asexual hermaphrodite at a go-go bar.
Our main business district is dotted with straight and gay massage parlours, but we ban same-sex marriage. We have transgender celebrities and politicians, but homosexuals are not allowed to give blood.
There seems to be very little reasoning behind our schizophrenic attitudes towards sexuality and the rights of LGBT individuals.
In a poll conducted by the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) in 2012, 58% of respondents stated that they were against same-sex marriage because it is unnatural and sets a bad example for children.
Meanwhile, it was only relatively recently that men were legally allowed minor wives but a woman having an affair was grounds for divorce.
At the same time, there is a side of Thai society that openly embraces homosexuality. The side of society that fully accepts homosexual singers and dara, that votes for transgender politicians and gives primetime television spots to homosexual talk show hosts.
Of course these are not entirely the same thing. These examples are the exception, not the rule. The novelty of LGBT individuals in the public eye could quite easily be attributed to exploitation rather than acceptance. There are obviously deeper problems to deal with regarding the acceptance of LGBT people in Thailand.
But before we can solve these problems, we must first ask the question: Where does all this gay hate come from?
For starters, we are a Buddhist country. Nowhere in Buddhist doctrine is there any direct reference or stigma attached to homosexuality. So unlike in Western religions where people argue over the interpretation of ancient texts, we really have no religious reason to oppose offering equal marital rights for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.
In truth it all comes down to one major problem. It is not that Thai society is overwhelmingly homophobic, or that we are going against the word of God; the reality is Thailand has just not progressed enough bureaucratically to facilitate equal rights for everyone, and on top of that we are probably too lazy to make it happen anytime soon.
You see, Thai law does not specifically state that same-sex marriage is illegal. In fact, homosexuality itself has never even been illegal in Thailand. Thai law simply concludes that marriage can only be approved when both the man and the woman consent.
So why not amend the law, which has been in place since 1935, to say marriage can only be approved when two adults consent? It shouldn't be that hard right? If we can change the constitution a gazillion times, then we can do this surely?
Well, not exactly. If you have ever looked into Thai law then you know that much of it only deals with fundamental issues, basic complaints and straightforward application of the rules. There is very little sophistication, and a lot of room for interpretation involved.
That being said, if we were to amend marriage laws, there would be a whole host of related laws regarding adoption, tax rights, inheritance rights, insurance rights, etc that would also need amending or in some cases abolishing.
I'm not saying that all that work isn't worth it, but does Thailand really have the ability to rework its entire legal system? For starters, Thailand works on a largely civil law rather than common law system, meaning courts simply apply laws to cases rather than allowing precedent from previous cases to be worked into decisions.
The number of complications that could potentially arise from any amendment to marriage laws would be far better suited to a common law system or at least a mixed jurisdiction.
But the legal reworking would be complicated and it is sadly unlikely that legislators would be interested in all that work for the sake of same-sex marriage.
Of course the benefits that a same-sex marriage law would bring to society would be fantastic. If the courts were to support marriage equality, the only argument left in its opposition would be the laughable idea that it sets a bad example for children. Everybody knows that bad marriages set a bad example for children, not who is married to whom.
Arglit Boonyai is Digital Media Editor, Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Arglit Boonyai
Position: Multimedia Editor