Thailand moves closer to LGBTQ+ marriage

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Thailand's new PM pushes in the direction of legalizing same-sex marriage. It would be the first Southeast Asian country to give the green light

By Tommaso Magrini

Thailand could become the first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. The green light was one of the issues on the agenda of Move Forward, the party that was victorious in last May's elections but has since remained out of government. It is an issue that has now been picked up by the Pheu Thai party's new Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin. The PM relaunched the initiative in October, with her government preparing three bills for marriage equality, sex change, and decriminalization of prostitution. 

The Thai prime minister has "stressed that this is a very urgent matter," giving the relevant ministries a few weeks to hold public hearings on the bill and forward it to parliament, government spokesman Chai Watcharong said on Oct. 31. The bill will be debated in the upcoming parliamentary session in December, while the Pheu Thai-led coalition government is under pressure to deliver as it approaches the 100-day mark and must show that it has at least partially fulfilled key campaign promises, such as the $280 handout to Thai citizens.

Last year, the previous House of Representatives passed on first reading a marriage equality bill proposed by Move Forward, as well as a competing bill enshrining same-sex civil unions proposed by the conservative government of former Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. But neither bill moved forward before Parliament was dissolved for the May general election.

Supporters expect the Srettha government's proposal to be similar to the Move Forward bill in order to win the votes of the largest opposition party. The proposal would amend Thailand's Civil and Commercial Code, changing gendered words such as "husband" and "wife" to "spouse," while "man" and "woman" would change to "individual." Prachachat, a coalition party led by Pheu Thai and whose base is in the country's Muslim Deep South, has called for religious exemptions, such as exempting Muslim clerics and Christian priests from performing same-sex marriages. Srettha also supported Bangkok's bid to host the 2028 WorldPride, a biennial international event that would help boost tourism and consumption revenues in Thailand.

Meanwhile, the proposed Gender Recognition Bill would allow transgender Thais to change their official sex, which is currently not possible, even though the country has become a hub for sex reassignment surgeries. Opponents have said that allowing official sex change would give men a way out of military conscription, a concern that may be outweighed by the fact that the Pheu Thai government plans to switch to voluntary enlistment. 

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