UK's envoy on mission to promote diversity
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UK's envoy on mission to promote diversity

British ambassador to Thailand welcomes recent changes to Thai marriage law and backs PM's commitment to equality

British ambassador Mark Gooding, left, and his partner, Christopher McCormick. Somchai Poomlard
British ambassador Mark Gooding, left, and his partner, Christopher McCormick. Somchai Poomlard

British ambassador to Thailand, Mark Gooding, has expressed delight after the Thai parliament recently passed a same-sex marriage bill, saying there's room for the United Kingdom and Thailand to work together to support gender equality.

In an exclusive interview with the Bangkok Post, Mr Gooding and his partner, Christopher McCormick, said they were among the first couples in the UK to be legally recognised in a civil union when the law changed nearly two decades ago.

It was right after the Civil Partnership Act allowing same-sex unions to have the same rights as married couples was approved by the British parliament in 2004.

It wasn't until March 2014 that same-sex marriage in England was legalised and the first marriage between a same-sex couple took place.

Another decade later in Thailand, on March 27 this year, it was time for the Thai LGBTQ+ community to celebrate as the government finally announced its approval of the gay marriage law.

"For the Thai LGBTQ+ community, this legislation will give them access to various rights to which the UK government believes they are entitled," Mr Gooding said.

"Our government is clear that we support equal marriage around the world because LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.

"And LGBTQ+ people are seeking equality, which means nothing more and nothing less than anyone else is entitled to," he said.

"The equal marriage law, which is supported and welcomed in Thailand, will grant the support and rights in the areas they need," he said, noting the Thai PM had a strong commitment and is an advocate on this issue.

Ambassador Gooding said that since his arrival in Thailand he and his husband had been warmly welcomed by the local community.

However, he said there were specific issues, just like anywhere in the world, regarding the rights of same-sex couples including tax rights, property and health benefits.

The ambassador said it's important to promote a better society, happiness, education and creativity, and he believes passing this bill on marriage equality is a part of that.

"I think the most successful society in the world is the society where people can live as themselves," he said.

Thailand could learn from the UK's path in implementing marriage equality policies to ensure inclusive protections among same-sex couples from discrimination, he said.

He said the bill cannot solve every LGBTQ+ issue. There are still many difficulties that LGBTQ+ people face such as discrimination in the workplace, rights to health, and bullying in schools.

He said raising awareness of LGBTQ+ rights is important, suggesting that Thailand and the UK could share their experiences in terms of education and media.

Thailand could also learn from the UK on LGBTQ+ representation at the parliamentary level, he said, adding that in the 2019 elections, there were 45 LGBTQ+ in the British parliament which was the highest number in the world.

The UK also is part of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), the intergovernmental body of 43 member states dedicated to protecting LGBTQ+ rights.

The government is also working with LGBTQ+ civil society organisations to exchange experience, share ideas, and voice concerns. So, the UK hopes Thailand will join such a coalition to exchange its experience and learn from other Member States.

"I would not say the UK has the perfect solution to these challenges we are facing.

"So, I think Thailand-UK should exchange experience on the best way in solving these challenges. I hope one day Thailand will join ERC with us and we would be able to do that in many other countries as well," he said.

When asked about his experience of being a gay ambassador, Mr Gooding said his life is similar to any other foreign ambassador to Thailand who aims to boost bilateral ties.

Yet he said the UK government also is keen to represent diverse UK society around the world.

So, the UK government has been actively supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community, women, and people of different ethnicities, to become ambassadors for the country.

"This is the UK today. We are an inclusive diverse society. We support the case of inclusion and diversity around the world," he said.

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