'Monumental step': Thailand to become first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage

Thailand to become first Southeast Asian nation to legalise same-sex marriage
Thailand to become first Southeast Asian nation to legalise same-sex marriage Credit: AP

Thailand will become the first Southeast Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage as supporters called it a “monumental step forward for LGBTQ+ rights”. The Thai Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the marriage equality bill, with 130 in favour and only 4 opposed. The bill now awaits formal approval from King Maha Vajiralongkorn. If endorsed, it will become law 120 days after being published in the Royal Gazette.

The bill will grant LGBTQ+ couples the same legal rights and recognition as heterosexual couples, including rights related to inheritance, adoption and healthcare decision-making.

Thailand will now become the third Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage, following Taiwan in 2019 and Nepal in 2023.

All major Thai political parties supported the marriage equality bill, marking a step toward cementing Thailand's reputation as one of the region's most LGBTQ-friendly countries.

However, Amnesty International who described the bill as a "landmark moment," said more "must be done" to secure the full protection of LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand.

Amnesty International has said "must be done" to secure the full protection of LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand. Credit: AP

Amensty's Thailand researcher, Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, said: "Thailand has taken a historic step towards becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise marriage for LGBTI couples. “This landmark moment is a reward for the tireless work of activists, civil society organisations and lawmakers who have fought for this victory.   “While there is no doubt that the legalisation of marriage for LGBTI couples is a key milestone for Thailand, much more must be done to guarantee full protection of LGBTI people in the country.   “The Thai authorities must build on the momentum and take further steps that protect the rights and ensure the participation of LGBTI people and organisations.”A report published by Amnesty in May 2024, revealed that Thai LGBTQ+ human rights defenders have been subjected to targeted digital surveillance and online harassment due to their activism.

Panyaphon Phiphatkhunarnon, founder of Love Foundation, an NGO campaigning for LGBTQ+ equality in Thailand, said: “The potential impact of this bill is immense. It would not only change the lives of countless couples but also contribute to a more just and equitable society for all. “Beyond the legal implications, the passage of this bill would send a powerful message of acceptance and inclusion. “It would inspire the younger generation to come out and live their lives authentically, it would showcase Thailand as a progressive and inclusive country – attracting tourists and businesses … and will foster a culture change where LGBTQ+ individuals feel accepted and supported.”

A couple from Bangkok, Pokpong Jitjaiyai and Watit Benjamonkolchai, told CNN that they plan to get married as soon as the law is passed. “When I was young, people said people like us couldn’t have a family, can’t have children, so marriage was impossible,” Mr Pokpong said.

“Over 10 years ago, we could not live together the way we are now. We could never be our true selves, the way it is now… and now I can freely say that I am gay. “I want the people around the world see how love is. Love is love.” As Thailand progresses, Asia remains slow to grant LGBTQ+ rights due to rising religious conservatism and colonial-era laws, members of the community often face discrimination, prejudice, and even violence. In Indonesia, homosexual sex is not illegal, however, LGBTQ+ people face widespread discrimination, police raids, vigilante attacks and hostility from authorities. In Malaysia, homosexuality is considered a crime that is punishable by fines and prison sentences of up to 20 years. Singapore repealed a colonial-era law that criminalised sex between men in 2022 but the Government is still opposed to gay marriage.

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