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The Thai Cabinet has rejected the Marriage Equality Bill proposed by the Move Forward Party (MFP), claiming that it is similar to the Civil Partnership Bill proposed by the government.

A protester during the 28 November 2021 marriage equality rally with a sign taped to their back

The Government House website reported yesterday (29 March) that the Cabinet voted to reject the Marriage Equality Bill, which was forwarded to the Cabinet for consideration in February 2022, claiming that the bill is similar in content to the Civil Partnership Bill, previously approved by the Cabinet.

The Cabinet also ordered the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security to develop the Civil Partnership Bill using the results of a study conducted by Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University and to present a revised draft to the Cabinet as soon as possible so that it can be proposed to parliament.

The Marriage Equality bill proposed that the terminology used in the current marriage law be changed to use “spouse” instead of “husband” and “wife” and “person” instead of “man” and “woman.” If passed, the proposed amendments would allow individuals to be legally married regardless of gender, and ensure that they receive equal rights, duties, and protection under the law. If the bill passes, LGBT couples who have registered their marriage will be able to adopt children together, make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, and in cases where one partner dies, the other will be able to inherit from their partner and make legal decisions about their partner’s assets.

Meanwhile, the Civil Partnership Bill, proposed by the Ministry of Justice and approved by the Cabinet, defines “civil partnership” as a union between two people of the same gender, both of whom must be at least 17 years old and at least one of whom must be a Thai national.

It has previously been criticised by NGOs and LGBTQ rights activists, who questioned the need for separate legislation legalising LGBTQ marriages and raised concerns that the bill will deepen the stigma against the LGBTQ community in Thailand. They also criticized it for not giving LGBTQ couples the same rights as heterosexual couples and for being unclear about whether certain rights are granted, such as whether a person in a civil partnership is allowed to make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, or whether they are allowed to take their partner’s last name.

MFP MP Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, who proposed the Marriage Equality bill, posted on his Facebook page that he is disappointed in the Cabinet for having the power but not trying to create change.

Tunyawaj said that a civil partnership is not equal to a marriage. Civil partners are not given the same rights, dignity, and welfare as a married couple, and the two are not the same both in terms of the definitions and how the two bills are drafted. Saying that the two bills are similar reflects the lack of understanding about gender issues, he said, noting that the Cabinet could have approved both bills. He also asked whether the Cabinet does not believe that LGBTQ people deserve the same rights as heterosexual people.

Nevertheless, he said that he is not giving up, and that it is possible to propose the Marriage Equality bill to parliament again.

According to the 2019 Rule of Procedure of the House of Representatives, a bill proposed by an MP or by the civil society can be forwarded to the cabinet for a 60-day consideration period, during which it can take the bill to other government agencies for legal comments.

During this time, parliament will suspend voting on the bill. After the 60-day period has lapsed, the cabinet must return the bill to parliament. According to iLaw, the Procedure says that, at the end of the 60-day period, the House Speaker may put it into the parliament agenda as an urgent motion even if it has not been returned, meaning that it will be one of the first things parliament consider on during that session. The cabinet therefore cannot further delay the bill’s first reading or discard it.

Meanwhile, another Marriage Equality Bill is in the process of collecting signatures so that it can be proposed to parliament. On 28 November 2021, during a protest at the Ratchaprasong intersection, the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality, a network of over 40 civil society organizations and activist groups, launched a petition proposing amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code to allow marriage registration between two people of any gender.

The petition proposes to amend Article 1448 of the Civil Commercial Code, which governs marriage, so that marriage registration is allowed between two people of any gender, instead of only between a man and a woman. It also proposed to raise the age at which people can legally marry from 17 to 18 years old.

The petition also proposes to replace the terms “man” and “woman” in every article of the Civil and Commercial Code relating to marriage with “person,” as well as to replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” and “father” and “mother” with “parents.”

The amendments will grant LGBTQ couples the same rights, duties, and legal recognition as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt a child together and be recognized as the child’s parents, the right to have the power of attorney to make medical decisions of behalf of one’s partner and to press charges on behalf of one’s partner, the right to use one’s partner’s last name, and the right to inherit property from each other without the need for a will.

Within 24 hours of its launch, the petition gained over 150,000 signatures, ten times the number legally required for a bill to be put before parliament, and as of 15.40 on 30 March 2022, it has gained over 298,000 signatures.

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