Thailand's Cabinet recently approved a bill to amend the Civil and Commercial Code, redefining marriage as between any two “individuals” and ensuring equal rights for same-sex couples.
About the bill: The amendment, which was approved on Nov. 21, aims to recognize the right to form families for same-sex couples, with plans to extend recognition in pension fund laws as well. LGBTQ+ advocates view the amendment as having the best chance for success, given broad support from major political parties.
While pushback from religious groups is expected, the law emphasizes individual choice and is not meant to compel religious leaders. In southern Muslim-majority provinces, where Islamic law applies, the Civil and Commercial Code amendments would not be relevant. As for the rest of the country, the LGBTQ+ community anticipates increased respect, equality and freedom.
“The country has been clear that we will not force any religious leaders or priests or monks to perform the [same-sex] marriage ceremony,” Rapeepun Jommaroeng, a policy analyst for the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand, told Al Jazeera. “This law is not about forcing people to do things they don’t want to. This is purposefully broad to enable people to have equality. It’s just to give the liberty and freedom for two people to be united.”
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Moving on to Parliament: The draft law is expected to be presented to Parliament on Dec. 12, and if approved and endorsed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Thailand would become the first country in Southeast Asia and the third Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, following Taiwan and Nepal. The government aims to move swiftly, holding the first of three required votes by next month.
“The prime minister [wants to] push [it] very much. He wants to see this bill appear in the Parliament debate as soon as possible,” government spokesperson Chai Watcharong said. “We consider that there is no reason to say no because people should have the right to decide their own way of living. Even though they are male and male, they love each other…so they should have the right.”
What the law could mean: Despite its LGBTQ+ friendly reputation, Thailand has faced challenges passing marriage equality laws with previous attempts falling through. But the current government, led by the Pheu Thai party, is reviving this effort, as promised during its election campaign.
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The recognition of same-sex marriage could also enable LGBTQ+ individuals to adopt children and access various benefits like tax deductions, medical consent, property management and wealth inheritance.
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