Asia

Lawmakers in Thailand overwhelmingly approve same-sex marriage bill

The bill amends the Civil and Commercial Code to change the words "men and women" and "husband and wife" to "individuals" and "marriage partners."

Participants hold a rainbow flag during a Pride Parade in Bangkok, Thailand
Sakchai Lalit / AP
SMS

Lawmakers in Thailand's lower house of Parliament overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill on Wednesday that would make the country the first in Southeast Asia to legalize equal rights for marriage partners of any gender.

The bill passed its final reading with the approval of 400 of the 415 members of the House of Representatives who were in attendance, with 10 voting against it, two abstaining and three not voting.

The bill amends the Civil and Commercial Code to change the words "men and women" and "husband and wife" to "individuals" and "marriage partners." It would open up access to full legal, financial and medical rights for LGBTQ+ couples.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which rarely rejects any legislation that passes the lower house, and then to the king for royal endorsement. This would make Thailand the first country or region in Southeast Asia to pass such a law and the third in Asia, after Taiwan and Nepal.

Danuphorn Punnakanta, a spokesperson of the governing Pheu Thai party and president of a committee overseeing the marriage equality bill, said in Parliament that the amendment is for "everyone in Thailand" regardless of their gender, and would not deprive heterosexual couples of any rights.

"For this law, we would like to return rights to the (LGBTQ+ group). We are not giving them rights. These are the fundamental rights that this group of people … has lost," he said.

Lawmakers, however, did not approve inclusion of the word "parent" in addition to "father and mother" in the law, which activists said would limit the rights of some LGBTQ+ couples to form a family and raise children.

Thailand has a reputation for acceptance and inclusivity but has struggled for decades to pass a marriage equality law.

The new government led by Pheu Thai, which took office last year, has made marriage equality one of its main goals.