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The Thai Senate voted 130 to 4, with 18 abstentions, to approve a bill amending sections of the Civil and Commercial Code concerning marriage and family to allow marriage registration regardless of gender, making Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise marriage for LGBTQ people.

Activists and members of the bill's drafting committee waving rainbow Pride flags during the caravan celebrating the bill's passing.

Commonly known as the Marriage Equality bill, the bill will amend the Civil and Commercial Code, using “spouse” in place of “husband” and “wife” and “person” instead of “man” and “woman” to allow for gender-neutral marriage registrations. All existing legislation relating to “husbands” and “wives” will subsequently apply to legally-married spouses. The bill will also raise the age at which a person can legally marry from 17 to 18, in line with international children’s rights principles.

The bill was approved by parliament on 27 March and passed its first Senate reading on 2 April. Yesterday (18 June), the Senate voted 130 to 4, with 18 abstentions, to approve the bill in its final reading.

The new legislation still needs royal assent to become law. It will then come into effect 120 days after publication in the Royal Gazette.

Thailand's road to marriage equality

Activists and human rights organisations welcomed the bill’s approval. Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, Human Rights Associate at Fortify Rights, said that the new marriage equality law is “a triumph for justice and human rights.”

“The journey to this point has been long and fraught with challenges, but today’s vote to ensure marriage equality marks a historic moment that deserves celebration,” she said.

Mookdapa calls on the Thai government to ensure the “swift and effective implementation” of the bill to protect LGBTQ rights.

Amnesty International’s Thailand researcher Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong said that the bill’s passing is a “historic step” for Thailand towards legalising marriage for LGBTQ people.

“This landmark moment is a reward for the tireless work of activists, civil society organisations and lawmakers who have fought for this victory,” he said. Noting that legalising marriage for all is a “key milestone” for the country, he stressed that more needs to be done to guarantee full protection for LGBTQ people. He noted that LGBTQ people in Thailand continue to face many forms of violence and discrimination, and that human rights defenders often face technology-facilitated gender-based violence as well.

“Thai authorities must build on the momentum and take further steps that protect the rights and ensure the participation of LGBTQ people and organisations,” said Chanatip.

At Human Rights Watch, Kyle Knight and Sunai Phasuk observed that Thailand has been a destination for LGBTQ tourists and for those seeking gender-affirming healthcare, adding that passing the marriage equality law gives the country an opportunity to match its reputation for LGBTQ rights with tangible protection. They noted, however, that Thailand still offers no protection for trans people and called on Thai lawmakers to consider legal reforms for trans rights.

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