HomeAsian AmericansThailand becomes first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage

Thailand becomes first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage

Thailand will become the first ever country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, after Thai lawmakers approved an marriage equality bill on Tuesday.

Thailand’s senate voted in overwhelming favor of passing the bill with 130 votes to four, with 18 members abstaining, CBS News reports. Previously, the bill was approved by the House of Representatives in March. The bill still needs the endorsement of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and publication in a government periodical, before going into effect. Once this process is completed, the law will come into effect 120 days later.

“After 20 years of trying to legalize this matter, finally, love wins,” said activist Plaifa Kyoka Shodladd in an article by the New York Times.

This vote not only makes Thailand the first Southeast Asian country where same-sex marriage is legalized, but the third country in Asia where it is. The first was Taiwan in 2019, with the second being Nepal in 2023.

In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, the bill also grants Thai LGBTQ+ couples the same legal rights and recognition as heterosexual couples, including rights and access to adoption, inheritance, and healthcare decision-making.

“The bill represents a monumental step forward for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand,” said Panyaphon Phiphatkhunarnon, founder of the NGO Love Foundation, in an interview with CNN. “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.”

Bangkok residents Pokpong Jitjaiyai and Watit Benjamonkolchai told CNN they plan to get married as soon as the law is passed, with Pokpong hoping that the bill will start a “domino effect” in other countries.

“When I was young, people said people like us couldn’t have a family, can’t have children, so marriage was impossible,” 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.”

The first version of the bill was introduced 20 years ago, with previously attempts to sign it often stalling. In 2020, Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled that a current law stipulating marriage as being between a man and a woman was constitutional. However, in a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center last year showed that 60 percent of Thai adults supported the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Thailand’s Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, had attended massive Pride Month celebrations in Bangkok earlier this June.

“We have come far in our journey towards social equality,” he said in a tweet on June 1. “I want to reaffirm my government’s commitment in pushing for the realization of the Equal Marriage Bill which today we can visibly see the light at the end of the tunnel. We will also continue our fight for social rights for all people regardless of their status.”

After the bill was passed Tuesday, Srettha simply said on X, “Love wins.”

Srettha hopes to showcase Thailand as a welcoming destination for LGBTQ+ people, and has supported a bid for Thailand to host the World Pride in 2030. In addition, Srettha said that he would host a celebration for activists on Tuesday evening, though he will be unable to attend due to a COVID infection.

“We have been waiting for this moment for so long,” said Tinnaphop Sinsomboonthong, a queer scholar and assistant professor at Thammasat University, in an interview with The Guardian. “Let’s say it’s the symbol of the new change and the new transformation happening in south-east Asia.”

Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, a spokesperson for human rights group Fortify Rights, also told The Guardian, that the passing of the bill was a “triumph for justice and human rights.”

“The journey to this point has been long and fraught with challenges, but today’s vote to ensure marriage equality marks a historic moment that deserves celebration,” Yangyuenpradorn said.

Thailand currently remains an outlier in Southeast Asia, as laws criminalizing same-sex relations, often inherited from British colonial rule, are still present. In many of these countries, the LGBTQ+ communities often face widespread discrimination, police brutality, growing intolerance, and other hostilities.

In 2019, Brunei introduced death by stoning for extramarital and anal sex, which was extended on moratorium after a global outcry.

In 2022, Singapore repealed a colonial-era law that criminalized sex between men, but the government also stated that it would make it harder for people to challenge government policies.

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