Campaigners march for marriage equality at Bangkok Pride in 2023
Campaigners march for marriage equality at Bangkok Pride in 2023 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Lawmakers in Thailand have voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The country’s Parliament voted in favor of same-sex marriage in March. Today, the country’s Senate voted on the same legislation. Only four senators opposed the motion while 130 voted in favor. Eighteen abstained. All the major parties supported the bill.

The legislation will now go for signing by the King Maha Vajiralongkorn (generally considered just a formality). Once it has been signed and a notice published in the royal gazette, equal marriage become law within 120 days.

This makes Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. Elsewhere in Asia, the only other countries to allow gay marriage are Taiwan (in 2019) and Nepal (in 2023). Thailand, with a population of 71 million, is the biggest Asian country yet to allow marriage equality.

The legislation will allow same-sex couples the same rights as married opposite-sex couples. This includes inheritance rights, adoption, and healthcare decision-making. The wording of the bill changes references to “men”, “women”, “husbands” and “wives” to gender-neutral terms such as “spouse” and “person”.

“A monumental step”

“The bill represents a monumental step forward for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand,” Panyaphon Phiphatkhunarnon, founder of Love Foundation – an NGO campaigning for LGBTQ+ equality in Thailand, told CNN.

“The potential impact of this bill is immense. It would not only change the lives of countless couples but also contribute to a more just and equitable society for all.”

Thailand has a thriving gay scene and attracts large numbers of LGBTQ+ tourists from around the world. Trans people will be able to take advantage of the new legislation. However, they will still be legally recognized by the gender they were assigned at birth. Local campaigners are pushing for a gender recognition law to change this.

“We’re all just really excited,” said Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, an 18-year-old activist, told The Guardian. “I can feel the whole world is cheering us on.

Although Thailand has been known as the gay paradise or the queer paradise, it was never really the actual paradise for queer people. But once we have this bill it will open so many doors.”

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