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As the Thai Senate will be holding an ad-hoc session on 18 June to vote on the Marriage Equality bill, Fortify Rights calls on the Senate to approve the bill, which would allow marriage registration regardless of gender and make Thailand the first Southeast Asian nation to legalize marriage for LGBTI+ couples.

Participants in the 2024 Bangkok Pride parade, which took place on Saturday (1 June), marched through the Siam shopping district holding rainbow flags.

Thai senators should vote to approve the draft Act for Amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, commonly known as the marriage equality bill, Fortify Rights said today. On May 29, 2024, the chair of the parliamentary committee focused on the marriage equality bill announced that the Senate House would hold an ad-hoc parliamentary session on June 18, 2024 to vote on the bill. If passed into law, this legislation would extend equal access to the right to marriage for LGBTI+ persons. 

“The Senate should pass the marriage equality bill in the same form as approved by the House of Representatives to ensure equal rights to marriage for LGBTI+ couples,” said Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, Human Rights Associate at Fortify Rights. “The Senate has an opportunity to advance justice and equality for LGBTI+ persons by approving the final bill.”

Earlier on March 27, 2024, the marriage equality bill successfully passed its final reading in the House of Representatives, with 400 out of 415 lawmakers voting in favor of the bill and 10 against. The bill was then forwarded to the Thai Senate for further consideration. Subsequently, on April 2, 2024, the Senate approved the draft law during its first reading, with 147 senators voting in favor, four opposing, and seven abstaining.

According to the House of Representative’s final version of the marriage equality bill, amendments in the draft law are expected to bring the Code further in line with international standards. Notably, the latest draft of the marriage equality bill replaces the terms “husband” and “wife” with the term “spouse” and “man” and “woman” with “person” in Section 1448 of the Code. This change would provide LGBTI+ couples with equal access to marriage, welfare, child adoption, healthcare consent, property co-management, inheritance, and access to spousal benefits such as tax deductions and government pensions.

The latest draft also includes a provision to ensure LGBTI+ couples who marry are immediately guaranteed all affiliated spousal rights, regardless of the status of other legislation and regulations that must be brought in line with the amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code. Moreover, the draft addresses child marriage by raising the minimum age to 18 years old to marry. The current minimum age requirement is 17 years old, which does not align with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Between January and March 2024, Fortify Rights served as an advisor to the Parliamentary Committee to Scrutinize the Act for Amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, which developed the latest draft bill based on four bills submitted to parliament by the government, the Move Forward Party, the Democrat Party, and the Thai civil society-led Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality. All bills passed the first readings in parliament. The committee completed its work after making revisions and submitting the latest draft to the full parliament for the second and third readings of the bill.

Speaking about the fundamental right to marry and found a family during an event held at The Fort on May 26, 2024, LGBTI+ activist Anticha Sangchai said: “There shouldn’t be a ‘standard’ to what a family means … [It] is the kind of intimate relationship that people should have the freedom to determine for themselves, not for the society to dictate.”

For the marriage equality bill to become law, it must pass three readings in the House of Representatives and three readings in the Senate before being submitted to the Prime Minister, who will request royal assent from the King. The bill will then be published in the Royal Gazette and become law after 60 days.

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.

“Thailand is set to make history as the first Southeast Asia nation to legalize marriage for LGBTI+ couples,” said Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn. “Passing the marriage equality bill would be an important step towards ending discriminatory restrictions that have denied basic rights to LGBTI+ persons in Thailand for too long.”

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