Thailand to be first Southeast Asian country to recognise same-sex marriage

Members of the LGBTQ+ community react as they arrive ahead of the passing of the marriage equality bill in its second and third readings by the Senate, which will effectively make Thailand Asia’s third territory to legalise same-sex unions, in Bangkok, Thailand, June 18, 2024. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa 

By Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat

Thailand’s Senate passed the final reading of a marriage equality law on Tuesday, paving the way for it to become the first country in Southeast Asia to recognise same-sex couples.

The bill, the culmination of more than two decades of effort by activists, was supported by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers in the upper house.

The law, which needs royal approval, will come into force 120 days after it is published in the royal gazette, meaning the first same sex weddings could take place later this year.

“Today we celebrate another significant milestone in the journey of our Equal Marriage Bill,” Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said in a post on X.

“We will continue our fight for social rights for all people regardless of their status.”

LGBT advocates called the move a “monumental step forward,” as Thailand would be the first nation in Southeast Asia to enact marriage equality legislation and the third in Asia, after Nepal and Taiwan.

“We are very proud to make history,” said Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, member of a parliamentary committee on same-sex marriage.

“Today love triumphed prejudice … after fighting for more than 20 years, today we can say that this country has marriage equality.”

A member of the Civil Society Commission speaks about the passing of the marriage equality bill in its second and third readings by the Senate, which will effectively make Thailand Asia's third territory to legalise same-sex unions, in Bangkok, Thailand, June 18, 2024. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa 

Lawmakers and activists were seen celebrating in Thailand’s parliament, waving rainbow flags and smiling, with some raising their fists in solidarity with the LGBT community.

In Thailand’s northern Chiang Mai province, human rights activist Matcha Phornin, her wife Veerawan Wanna and their adopted daughter were glued to their television screen as they watched the senate proceedings.

“We have support from the parliament, from the senators who passed this law. That means we are protected by law,” said Matcha, after they cheered and hugged each other when the bill passed.

“And she will be legally adopted after this,” Matcha said, referring to their daughter.

Thailand, one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations, is already known for its vibrant LGBT culture and tolerance.

At the start of June, thousands of revellers and activists paraded through the streets of Bangkok and were joined by Prime Minister Srettha, who wore a rainbow shirt to celebrate Pride Month.

“This would underscore Thailand’s leadership in the region in promoting human rights and gender equality,” the Civil Society Commission of marriage equality, activists and LGBTQI couples said in a statement.

—Reuters

A Lesbian couple arrives ahead of the passing of the marriage equality bill in its second and third readings by the Senate, which will effectively make Thailand Asia's third territory to legalise same-sex unions, in Bangkok, Thailand, June 18, 2024. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa 
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