Council of State seeks public opinion on civil union bill

Council of State seeks public opinion on civil union bill

Activists hail proposal as first step towards equality

LONG PROCESS: Campaigners call for public awareness on LGBT rights and same-sex marriage during a parade from the Democracy Monument to Sanam Luang, organised by the Foundation for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rights and Justice (FOR-SOGI) on Dec 15, 2015. (File photo by Apichart Jinakul)
LONG PROCESS: Campaigners call for public awareness on LGBT rights and same-sex marriage during a parade from the Democracy Monument to Sanam Luang, organised by the Foundation for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Rights and Justice (FOR-SOGI) on Dec 15, 2015. (File photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Draft legislation on civil partnerships for same-sex couples will not be rushed through, and its fate depends on public feedback, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin said on Friday.

He said the process to consider the bill will take some time as it requires careful deliberation to prevent any misunderstanding. 

''The Justice Ministry will neither rush nor put the brakes on the bill. Let it be decided by public sentiment,'' the minister said. It was not known whether the bill will be passed by the House of Representatives.

Mr Somsak made the comments on Friday, when he chaired a workshop to gather feedback on the bill, which was proposed by the Rights and Liberties Department.

The cabinet agreed in principle to the bill on Dec 25 last year. 

The Council of State, the government's legal advisory body, is currently vetting the bill and has assigned the Justice Ministry to hold forums to compile public opinion on some contentious issues in the legislation. 

For example, those who register for civil partnership must be at least 17-years-old and obtain their parents' consent. 

Moreover, the bill failed to cover the right to adopt children and the right to receive state welfare benefits, even though same-sex couples have the right to adopt children under the existing Child Adoption Act. The bill also stipulates conditions for terminating registration of civil partnerships. 

The feedback must be sent back to the Council of State by next month.

Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, a list MP of the Future Forward Party, on Friday led a group of LGBT activists to hand a letter to Mr Somsak calling for the Civil and Commercial Code to be amended to remove language they deem to be sexually discriminatory.

Ms Tunyawaj said the aim of the proposed legislation is broader human rights protection for people of diverse sexual orientation. Same-sex couples should have the right to build their own families without being discriminated against.

She said the right to live as couples should not be restricted to relationships between a husband and wife or heterosexual couples. Families of diverse sexual orientation should also be allowed to live together.

The civil partnership bill stops short of allowing same-sex couples to marry. If passed, it would grant such partners the legal right to jointly manage assets and liabilities, and to give or receive inheritances. Activists are critical of it not giving same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. Proponents have hailed the bill as a first step towards equality in Thailand.

The proposed bill is separate from the Civil and Commercial Code, which regulates many legal aspects of Thai law, such as family, marriage, divorce, custody, property and inheritance.


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