Government’s push for equal marriage renews hopes for LGBTI+ rights

(BANGKOK, November 24, 2023)—The Thai Cabinet’s recent approval of the draft Act for Amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, commonly known as the marriage equality bill, marks a historic step towards equal rights for LGBTI+ people, and other governments in Southeast Asia should follow Thailand’s example, said Fortify Rights today.
The Thai Cabinet under Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is expected to introduce Thailand’s marriage equality bill in the upcoming parliamentary session for consideration next month. Fortify Rights called on the Thai parliament to urgently pass it into law and ensure the right to marriage equality for couples of all genders in Thailand.

“After multiple setbacks and delays, the Cabinet’s push for marriage equality during the next parliamentary session is very encouraging,” said Mookdapa Yanyuenpradorn, Thailand Human Rights Associate at Fortify Rights. “With Prime Minister Srettha’s leadership, Thailand now has the opportunity to end the historic discrimination suffered by LGBTI+ couples.”

Prime Minister Srettha’s meeting with members of the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality. ©Srettha Thavisin Facebook Page, 2023

On November 22, Thailand’s Cabinet approved the draft marriage equality bill and resolved to table the bill in parliament during the next legislative session, which is set to open on December 12. In its announcement, the Cabinet also instructed the Council of State—legal specialists and scholars who provide legal opinions and advice to the government on matters related to law and legislation—to prepare to revise other laws to ensure equitable rights for couples of all genders.

The marriage equality bill, if enacted, would replace the terms “husband” and “wife” with the term “spouse” in Section 1448 of Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code. This, in effect, would provide LGBTI+ couples equal access to the right to marriage, welfare, child adoption, healthcare consent, property co-management, inheritance, and access to spousal benefits of tax deductions and government pensions.

The Thai government’s endorsement of the bill came after previous attempts by civil society groups and politicians to pass the marriage equality bill. Its last version lapsed following the closure of Thailand’s parliamentary session on March 1, 2023. Following the general elections in May 2023, the new government failed to reintroduce the marriage equality bill within the sixty-day timeline imposed by Section 147 of the Thailand Constitution.

Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right to family and marriage without discrimination. The principle of non-discrimination is also considered a fundamental right under customary international law binding on all states. Section 27 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand similarly prohibits all forms of discrimination.

“If the marriage equality bill is passed, Thailand would become the first Southeast Asian nation, and only the third Asian nation, to legalize marriage for LGBTI+ couples,” said Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn. “This would be a truly groundbreaking achievement. Other governments in this region and beyond should follow the example set by Thailand.”

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