Same-sex marriage a must for nation famed for tolerance

Same-sex marriage a must for nation famed for tolerance

Oft-delayed bill gaining momentum

Groom Nathapit Tuntirichai and his bride, transgender Navin Pratumnak staged their own wedding in Phitsanulok on April 21, and invited family and the media. Their ceremony has no legal standing under current Thai law. (Post Today photo)
Groom Nathapit Tuntirichai and his bride, transgender Navin Pratumnak staged their own wedding in Phitsanulok on April 21, and invited family and the media. Their ceremony has no legal standing under current Thai law. (Post Today photo)

The fight for same-sex marriage remains an uphill battle in Thailand, a country known for its tolerance of people of different sexual orientations, despite a draft bill being pushed for the cause, according to activists.

The bill recognising same-sex marriage is making slow progress after years of being pushed by gay rights activists.

Several western countries, including Germany, France and Denmark, gave the nod to gay marriage a long time ago, but in Asia the issue has yet to gain traction, the activists said.

In Thailand, gay rights advocates welcomed the first draft of a bill they hoped would pave the way for equality in marriage back in 2012. However, the draft has still not even reached parliament six years later.

Campaigners cite the abrogated 2007 charter which bars discrimination against people based on their gender, saying gay people should enjoy an equal right to the union as heterosexual couples.

This constitutional recognition was carried over to the current charter and the parliamentary committee on Legal Affairs, Justice and Human Rights and the Justice Ministry's Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD) are deliberating the bill, the contents of which have been adjusted over the years.

Known as the "Registration of Civil Partnership", the bill, containing 15 sections, hit a snag following the 2014 coup.

The department decided to re-study and re-draft it to address wider issues. The result was a reworked draft containing 63 sections.

The 15-section version focused on the relationship of partners, while the latest draft places emphasis on the issues surrounding inheritance management, the beginning and the end of the partnership, as well as other legal obligations of married couples.

Nareeluc Pairchaiyapoom, director of the department's Internal Rights Division, said it is highly likely the draft will be passed eventually since the Justice Ministry is now paying close attention to the third gender and gender equality.

The draft will have to be forwarded from the ministry to the Council of State for legal vetting where further changes can be made if needed, said Ms Nareeluc.

She also noted the bill has gone through several revisions, incorporating opinions and input from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups. The input, however, tended to focus on the finer details of the bill rather than the main issues.

Ms Nareeluc said in her view, the emphasis should be on LGBT couples' property and legal rights, which are challenging issues to be resolved.

She said it will take time to educate people about the principles behind the new bill. But she said she is confident the wider population will come to accept it.

"Some groups have called for the right to adopt children while others want changes in their titles, from Mr to Miss," said Ms Nareeluc, adding that officials in the bureaucratic system still think of a family as being a social unit strictly involving a man and a woman."

Some people still harbour prejudice against homosexuals who are regarded as outcasts by some religions, she noted.

Ms Nareeluc said changes to the bill have to be made carefully as they may require amending other related laws, particularly the Civil and Commercial Code which concerns ownership of private properties, she said.

Ms Nareeluc reiterated that it is crucial the bill is accepted by society and added that currently it does not include changes to names, titles or homosexual couples' rights to adopt children.

She said the department will meet the bill drafting panel, which includes LGBT representatives, this Friday to sound out whether the draft is pragmatic.

"The department is hopeful that the bill will be passed into law during the current government," said Ms Nareeluc.

Meanwhile, transgender lecturer Kathawut Khangpiboon, of Thammasat University, doubts whether the bill will ever see the light of day under the current administration.

"It is interesting to see how the government deals with the issue or what opinion it holds about the bill," said Ms Kathawut, aka Kath.

She said she would wait and see what the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) makes of it.

"In my personal view, it will not pass [the NLA]," said Ms Kathawut.

Ms Kathawut gained a profile in the media after she took the Thammasat university and its executive board to court for having been denied a placement as a lecturer with the Faculty of Social Administration despite having passed the qualification screening in March 2015.

The Central Administrative Court later ordered the university to hire her. According to the sources, four of the first five sections of the bill concern general provisions regarding how marriages of two people born of the same sex will be administered.

The registration will be with agencies stipulated in related ministerial regulations, after a formal request is lodged by a couple who must not concurrently hold a marriage certificate or be related by bloodline.

Their legal partnership will end when they die, when they agree to discontinue it or when they are ordered by the court.

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