As the new parliament opens its first session, human rights organization Fortify Rights call on the new cabinet to urgently reintroduce the marriage equality bill to protect LGBTQ rights, noting that ensuring marriage equality is among the 23 key issues mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the 8 parties in the government coalition.
A couple in wedding dresses marched in the 4 June 2023 Bangkok Pride parade holding signs calling for marriage equality.
The Cabinet of Thailand under the Prime Minister’s Office should urgently reintroduce to parliament a marriage equality bill to protect LGBTI+ rights, Fortify Rights said today. Under Thai law, the cabinet has 60 days from the opening day of parliament to request the parliament to reconsider a lapsed bill. Today is the first sitting of the new parliament following the general elections on May 14, 2023.
“The countdown starts today for the new government to demonstrate its commitment to equal rights for LGBTI+ couples in Thailand,” said Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, Thailand Human Rights Associate at Fortify Rights.
“Failing to put this bill back on the agenda of parliament would be a disappointing start for the new Thai government and a setback for equal rights for LGBTI+ people.”
The Thai Cabinet has until September 3, 2023 to restore in parliament the draft Act for Amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, commonly known as the marriage equality bill.
The marriage equality bill, which proposes to revise Section 1448 of Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code by replacing the terms “husband” and “wife” with the word “spouse” and “man” and “woman” with “person,” lapsed following the closure of the former parliamentary session on March 1, 2023.
The bill passed its first reading in the House of Representatives by a vote of 210 to 180 on June 15, 2022 and was introduced to the House of Representatives for a second reading on November 3, 2022.
If enacted, the bill would allow two individuals to legally marry regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result, LGBTI+ couples would not only have the right to marry, but also all the rights and privileges connected to that right, such as spousal welfare, child adoption, healthcare consent, property co-management, inheritance, access to spousal tax benefits, and government pensions.
On May 22, 2023, eight elected political parties signed a memorandum of understanding to form a new coalition government. Ensuring marriage equality is among the 23 key issues contained in the agreement.
According to paragraph two of Section 147 of the Thailand Constitution, a lapsed bill may re-enter parliament upon request by the Cabinet “within sixty days as from the date of convocation of the first sitting of the National Assembly after the general election.” The House of Representatives could consider the bill at its second reading with a majority vote by the parliament.
Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees the right to family and marriage, providing that “[t]he right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.” As a state party to the ICCPR, Thailand must “take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.” Article 26 of the ICCPR also guarantees equal protection of the law without any discrimination. The principle of non-discrimination is also considered a fundamental right under customary international law binding on all states. Section 27 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand similarly prohibits all forms of discrimination.
“Time is of the essence—the Thai government must seize this opportunity to right a wrong experienced by LGBTI+ couples for too long,” said Mookdapa.
“Thailand must ensure basic rights are a national priority, and marriage equality is a great place to start.”