Thailand amends a bill to redefine marriage

FILE PHOTO: People take part in the annual LGBTQ Pride parade in Bangkok, Thailand, June 4, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

The Thai government’s cabinet recently approved a bill to amend the Civil and Commercial Code, proposing a redefinition of marriage as a union between any two “individuals.” If Parliament ratifies the bill, Thailand could become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage and the second in all of Asia, following Taiwan. The government aims for swift progress, with hopes of passing the bill into law by next month.

Government spokesperson Chai Watcharong emphasized the prime minister’s strong support for the bill, advocating for individuals’ right to choose their way of living regardless of gender. Previous attempts to introduce similar legislation faced obstacles, but the current government’s four-year mandate provides an extended window for progress. Major political parties across the spectrum endorse the proposed changes.

While there may be anticipated resistance from certain religious groups, supporters believe the bill stands a good chance of success. The legislation is designed to respect diverse beliefs, ensuring that religious leaders are not compelled to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The bill’s passage may be facilitated by the exemption of Islamic law in southern provinces, where it could replace certain national laws. For the rest of the country, the LGBTQ community sees the bill as a real progress, promising increased respect, equality, and the freedom to express one’s identity.

If approved, the legislation would have profound implications, extending beyond the symbolic act of marriage. Same-sex couples would gain rights such as adoption, tax deductions, medical consent, property management, and inheritance. For LGBTQ government employees, marriage would grant access to public health benefits.

The potential change in the law reflects a shifting societal attitude, as evidenced by a 2022 survey indicating nearly 80% support for legalizing same-sex marriage.

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