Same-sex marriage bill moving ahead

Same-sex marriage bill moving ahead

Passage in House possible by end of March with enactment expected by year-end

A couple register their partnership at an event organised by Dusit district office to celebrate Valentine's Day on Feb 14, 2023. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
A couple register their partnership at an event organised by Dusit district office to celebrate Valentine's Day on Feb 14, 2023. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Thailand is pushing ahead with its plan to legalise same-sex marriage, with lawmakers set to approve changes that would make the country the first in Southeast Asia to guarantee equal marital rights.

A committee set up by the House of Representatives on Thursday approved the draft amendment to the country’s Civil and Commercial Code, according to Akaranun Khankittinan, a deputy chairman of the panel. Lawmakers are expected to take up the amended bill on March 27 for the second and third readings, he said. 

Once the bill clears the elected lower house, it will need a final approval from the Senate and then a royal endorsement before it can be enforced. The process is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Mr Akaranun told reporters.

The bill proposes a key fundamental change to the composition of a marriage, from “a man and a woman” to “two individuals,” and a change in the official legal status from “husband and wife” to a genderless “married couple.” The bill is aimed at guaranteeing LGBTQ couples the same fundamental rights that heterosexual couples currently enjoy under the Civil and Commercial Code. 

The so-called “marriage equality bill” is one of the key promises of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s administration, which took power in September last year. Mr Srettha’s cabinet cleared the proposal in December and the parliament approved it in the first reading days later. 

The latest version of the bill allows marriage of same-sex partners aged 18 and above, said Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, another deputy chairman of the committee. It will also grant them rights to inheritance, tax allowances and child adoption among other guaranteed rights. 

It’s set to go steps further than the previous military-backed government’s civil union bill, which sought to recognise same-sex civil partnerships in Thailand. That bill would have allowed LGBTQ couples the right to adopt children, jointly manage assets and liabilities, and inherit properties, while stopping short of legalising marriage. The bill failed to secure parliament nod before the lower house was dissolved by then-prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ahead of a general election in May last year.

Only two places in Asia — Taiwan and Nepal — currently recognise same-sex marriage, among fewer than 40 countries worldwide. 

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