Marriage equality brings joy
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Marriage equality brings joy

Same-sex couples have been expressing joy since the passage of Thailand's Marriage Equality Bill in the Senate two weeks ago.

They say they have been waiting patiently for this moment for a long time, and once the bill becomes law, they will apply for a marriage licence.

The law is meaningful to them because it helps guarantee a happy and healthy relationship as long as they are committed to the values that keep them together.

On June 18, the Senate endorsed the Marriage Equality Bill at its final reading.

The bill allows same-sex couples to register their marriage, with their relationship protected under the same law that applies to heterosexual couples.

The bill is expected to become law and take effect by the end of this year, when Thailand is set to become one of 37 countries in the world and the first Southeast Asian nation to legalise same-sex marriage.

A long fight

The initiative to allow same-sex marriage was first proposed in 2001 by then-interior minister Purachai Piamsomboon. However, it was shot down by Thaksin Shinawatra, prime minister at the time.

The idea was brought back in 2019 during Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's administration. Legislation on marriage equality was approved but later dropped as parliament was dissolved.

The Lower House finally passed the Marriage Equality Bill on March 27, and 84 days later, the Upper House announced its final approval of the bill on a 130:4 vote.

The law will take effect 120 days after it is published in the Royal Gazette following royal endorsement.

The Thai LGBTQ+ community considers it a victory after having fought for their rights for more than two decades.

The Bangkok Post recently sat down with some community members to seek their thoughts on the much-anticipated law.

Room to improve

Prinn Vadhanavira, 44, and Chakkrit Vadhanavira, 49, are among those looking to tie the knot, despite having been together in a relationship for 22 years.

Mr Prinn said that because there was no legal recognition for same-sex couples in the past, the couple faced many difficulties, especially when buying property, getting a loan together or listing each other as insurance beneficiaries.

They eventually solved these problems by having Mr Prinn's parents adopt Mr Chakkrit as a son so that they could have legal benefits as legal siblings.

The couple said they would register their marriage as soon as the law was in effect, adding they had already consulted legal experts and studied the procedures for changing their legal status from adoptive siblings to spouses.

Prinn Vadhanavira, left, and Chakkrit Vadhanavira.

The law is also expected to relieve crucial concerns for Sirorat Kanjanasumranwong, 38, and her partner Palita Areeras, 30. The couple have been in their relationship for three years.

"The fact that we couldn't sign medical approval for each other because we were not legally related always bothered us. Now we are relieved that the issue will soon be fixed," Ms Sirorat said.

While the law allows same-sex couples to register their marriage, some sections need to be improved, especially regarding gender-specific status, which may lead to the misgendering of some LGBTQ+ people, especially trans people.

Palita Areeras, left, and Sirorat Kanjanasumranwong.

Nachale Boonyapisomparn, vice president of the Foundation of Transgender Alliance for Human Rights, said that she, as a trans woman, would like to be a mother while her partner, a transman, would like to be a father if they decided to register their relationship.

Technically, they can register their marriage as a heterosexual couple. However, they have determined their gender identity is not the same as their biological sex.

However, the law still uses "father" and "mother", referring to biological males and females. Such terms could lead to misgendering in transgender relationships.

"Thailand has come far. Still, many things are left undone, such as the issue of legal guardianship and reproductive health," Ms Nachale said.

"Also, we still need to adapt our [education, welfare, justice and labour] system to the legal changes. We also need to work on stigma and discrimination prevention.

"The Marriage Equality Bill proves Thailand can change, but we need to make sure Thai society progresses along with this change as well," she added.

Nachale Boonyapisomparn, right, and her partner.

'Pink economy'

After the equal marriage bill becomes law, certain global demographic and economic trends will bring benefits to Thailand, according to Lee Badgett, Professor Emerita of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Chief Economist at Koppa LGBTI+ Economic Power Lab.

She said during the recent launch of “Pink Plus Economy” of the Borderless.LGBT platform of the Borderless Healthcare Group, that the LGBTQ+ market has been growing rapidly as more young people have been identifying themselves as LGBTQ+, especially among millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and members of Generation Z (between 1997 and 2012).

She pointed out that from 2021 until 2023, when Gallup, an American analytics and advisory company, surveyed people in the United States, about one in 10 millennials and about one in five Generation Z people identified as LGBTQ+.

She also said Ipsos, a multinational market research and consulting firm, conducted research in 30 countries and found that one in five Gen Z and one in 10 millennials identified themselves as LGBTQ+.

"This is a remarkably consistent pattern around the world. So clearly, the world is changing dramatically in terms of demographics," she added.

She pointed out that such a demographic change matters to businesses as more customers and tourists to Thailand will be LGBTQ+.

LGBTQ+ people are looking for products that represent them, and these consumers are expected to spend about US$4 trillion (146.7 trillion baht) around the world a year.

"[For Thailand], more employees, business owners and investors will be LGBTQ+. So, demographics will really drive this big economic wave over time as young generations move forward, in particular," she added.

Meanwhile, Prof Badgett pointed out that there are still roughly about 65 countries around the world which criminalise homosexuality or LGBTQ+ identities.

"This is clearly the way to go for Thailand to gain benefits from the pink economy," she said.

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