The cabinet on Wednesday endorsed a bill permitting partnership registration of same-sex unions, along with legal amendments to ensure they have most, if not all, the same rights as married couples.
The bill and the amendments will now be put to a vote in the House. Parliament will set up a subcommittee to work on the draft before it goes to the floor for debate.
Deputy government spokeswoman Ratchada Dhnadirek said the new Civil Partnership Bill and the amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code would ensure fairness for people of all genders. The bill is an important step for Thai society in promoting equality among people of all genders, she added.
The bill defines civil partners as couples born with the same sex. Partnership registration will be available to consenting same-sex couples who are at least 17 years old. One or both of the couple must be of Thai nationality.
Minors who seek such partnership certification must have the consent of their parents, guardians or a court. After same-sex partnership registration, minors will be considered mature.
The bill covers the registration and termination of partnerships, rights and obligations of a couple, property management, adoption and inheritance. But it does not grant all the rights and benefits applicable to male-female couples, such as entitlements to spousal benefits, some forms of state welfare and tax exemptions.
"The Civil Partnership Bill is a milestone for Thai society in promoting equality among people of all genders... This strengthens the families of people with sexual diversity and is appropriate for the present social circumstances," Miss Ratchana said.
The Justice Ministry, which proposed the bill and the legal amendments, would monitor the effectiveness of the changes and plan other legal amendments to ensure compliance with those already enacted, she said.
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After the bill was endorsed by the cabinet, opponents of the bill put the #SayNoToPartnershipBill hashtag in Thai to air their position on Twitter.
Some called it "fake" equality as it stops short of calling it marriage.
The Move Forward Party called for opponents of the bill to make their views known to the House through the website of the House Secretariat, which will open to comments from the public until Aug 17.
Move Forward has proposed another bill to amend Section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code to allow anyone to be legally wed, regardless of gender. The main thrust of the proposed amendment by the party was to enact legal recognition of same-sex marriage, instead of recognising it as partnership.
"Partnership is not equal to marriage," Thanwarin Sukhapisit said.