Same-sex civil partnerships law hoped for end of year
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Same-sex civil partnerships law hoped for end of year

The "French model" will be adopted for the new law allowing same-sex civil partnerships, which is hoped will come into effect by the end of the year, according to a senior government official.

Kerdchoke Kasemwongjit, director-general of the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection under the Justice Ministry which is sponsoring the draft law, said the bill has been drawn up to ensure compliance with the country's national human rights plan, which took effect in 2014.

He was speaking after chairing a meeting yesterday of a subcommittee scrutinising the "Registration of Civil Partnership" bill, which was proposed by the Justice Ministry in 2013.

Mr Kerdchoke said that the meeting reached the conclusion that the legal framework will likely be modelled on the French one, in which same-sex couples will initially be allowed to enter into civil partnerships before the further step of fully legalising a marriage is taken, he said.

Civil partnerships were introduced in the United Kingdom in 2004 to give same-sex couples similar tax treatment and legal rights as married couples. France then introduced a similar law known as the Pacte Civil de Solidarité in 2009 to specifically give homosexual couples tax and state pension rights as well as next-of-kin status.

Still, for Thailand, Mr Kerdchoke said further discussion is needed about what legal rights and responsibilities a civil partnership will cover under the new law.

He said the committee will meet regularly to work out the details of the bill with the aim of seeing it pass into law by the end of this year or early next year.

Even though people of diverse sexual orientations have gained wider public recognition in Thailand, a country known for its tolerance of people of all sexualities, their rights are still not afforded full legal recognition, he said.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, a professor emeritus at Chulalongkorn University's law faculty, said that the international trend of same-sex marriage remains unclear.

He was formerly UN Special Rapporteur, UN Independent Expert and a member of UN Commissions of Inquiry on human rights.

While the United Nations Human Rights Committee has declined to endorse same-sex marriage registration, about 50 countries have enacted legislation to recognise marriages of same-sex couples such as in the US, Canada, Australia and several other Western countries, Mr Vitit said.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is located in Costa Rica in Central America, issued a ruling in January this year stating that countries in the region should legalise same-sex marriages.

Mr Vitit said that at this stage Thailand is gradually orienting towards the registration of civil partnerships, rather than taking the larger step of legalising same-sex marriages.

Compared to same-sex marriages, same-sex civil partnerships or civil unions are less vulnerable to opposition from religious groups which argue that that marriage is only between a man and woman, he said.

Suphanee Pongruangpon, an officer for good governance, human rights and diverse sexual orientations at the United Nations Development Programme's branch in Bangkok, said that after studying the bill, she still finds it difficult to judge what the reaction among the general public will be.

The new bill will be separated from the Civil and Commercial Code which regulates many legal aspects of Thai law, such as family, marriage, divorce, custody, property and inheritance.

Though the separation will not cause any foreseeable problems, a study by Mahidol University showed that most respondents still do not recognise the love lives of persons with diverse sexual orientations, she said.

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