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The Thai Senate on Tuesday (2 April) voted 147 to 4 to approve the Marriage Equality bill in its first Senate reading.

The bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives on 27 March, will now go to an ad-hoc committee. It must then be returned to the Senate within 60 days for its final reading.

Although the Senate cannot dismiss outright a bill that has been approved by the House of Representatives, it can request amendments, which will have to be approved by the House. If the House disagrees with the Senate, another ad hoc committee will be formed to amend the bill before putting it through the parliamentary process again.

The Marriage Equality bill proposes to amend the Civil and Commercial Code to use “spouse” instead of “husband” and “wife” and “person” instead of “man” and “woman” to allow marriage registration regardless of gender. All legislation relating to “husband” and “wife” will automatically apply to legally married spouses. It also proposes to raise the age at which a person can legally marry from 17 to 18 years old, in line with international children’s rights principles.

Despite proposals from civil society members who were part of the ad hoc committee drafting the bill, the final draft did not include the gender-neutral term “primary parent,” opting to use only the terms “mother” and “father.” Concerns have been raised that using such gendered language would not be inclusive of all identities, including queer or nonbinary people, and would limit the rights of LGBTQ couples, especially those who have or wish to have children.

The human rights organization Fortify Rights, which served as an advisor to the drafting committee, called on the Senate to pass the bill as finalized by the House of Representatives and uphold LGBTQ rights in upcoming readings.

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