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Victory for Same-Sex Marriage in Thailand

Other Asia-Pacific Governments Should Follow Example of LGBT Rights Progress

People in Bangkok hold rainbow flags celebrating the passage of Thailand’s Marriage Equality Act, June 18, 2024. © 2024 Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters

Thailand’s Senate voted 130-4 today to pass a same-sex marriage bill that the lower house had approved by an overwhelming majority in March. This makes Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia, and the second in Asia, to recognize same-sex relationships.

The Marriage Equality Act makes important amendments to language in Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code concerning spouses, in particular by changing “men and women” and “husband and wife” to “individuals” and “marriage partners.”

Thirty-seven countries around the world currently recognize same-sex marriage in their national laws, with Liechtenstein being the most recent to pass new legislation this May. Taiwan became the first country in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage in 2019. Nepal has begun to recognize some same-sex marriages under an interim order from the Supreme Court while a final judgment is forthcoming.

The rights to marry and to form a family are recognized in article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Thailand ratified in 1996. Various United Nations human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women have determined that the idea of a “family,” as understood in international human rights law, does not need to conform to any single model.

Passing same-sex marriage legislation is an opportunity for Thailand to match its positive global reputation on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights with tangible legal protections. For decades, Thailand has been a destination for LGBT tourists and for transgender people seeking gender-affirming health care. However, Thailand still offers no protections for transgender people, and lawmakers should also consider much-needed legal reforms for trans rights.

The Thai Marriage Equality Act now goes to King Vajiralongkorn for royal assent and will come into force 120 days after publication in the Royal Gazette. It will stand as an example of LGBT rights progress across the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

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