Thailand House of Representatives votes to legalise same-sex marriage News
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Thailand House of Representatives votes to legalise same-sex marriage

The Thai House of Representatives approved Wednesday an equal marriage bill, with 400 favouring votes out of 415 members of the house. The bill still requires approval from the Senate and endorsement from the king. If the Senate and the king approve the legislation, Thailand will become the third Asian country/region that recognises same-sex marriage, after Taiwan and Nepal.

To guarantee marriage equality, the bill substitutes gendered nouns with gender-neutral nouns in the current Thai Civil and Commercial Code. Under section 1448 of the code, a marriage can take place only when the man and woman have completed their seventeenth year of age. The bill will amend this section with gender-neutral nouns such as person, spouse and betrothed. In addition, the bill also guarantees the right for “people of all genders” to be engaged and married. Civil rights as fiancés or spouses, including medical decision-making, social security rights, civil servant benefits and spousal tax deductions will no longer be exclusive to heterosexual couples. The bill also sought to amend the minimum age for marriage from 17 to 18 to fulfill its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin attributed the success to the societal consensus in Thailand as it is necessary for the whole country to work together to build an equal society free from discrimination. Thavisin also claimed that gender and family formation are basic human rights that the government should guarantee.

Previously in 2021, Thailand’s Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of section 1448 which provided for the exclusive legal recognition of heterosexual marriages, citing the maintenance of the existence of society and traditional customs as supporting grounds. The court nevertheless urged the Thai government to adopt appropriate measures to protect the rights of people with diverse sexualities.

The bill therefore serves as a huge step towards equality in Thailand. Nonetheless, rights advocates still maintain concerns about parental rights. LGBTQIA+ advocates wished to substitute “father” or “mother” with the term “parent,” a gender-neutral noun, in adoption legislation.

To come into effect, the bill still requires the Senate’s approval. However, the Senate has no power to veto a bill approved by the House of Representatives. According to section 137 and section 138 of Thailand’s Constitution, the Senate could only propose an amendment to the bill or return the bill in its entirety to the House of Representatives. After a 180-day limitation period, if the House still resolves to reaffirm the bill, the bill will be deemed to have the Senate’s approval.