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Thailand achieves marriage equality after historic vote: ‘A monumental step forward’

Thailand is now the third country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage after Taiwan and Nepal

By Jamie Tabberer

The Bangkok Pride parade in 2024 taken from a window overlooking street
The Bangkok Pride parade in 2024 (Image: Wikimedia Commons/Chainwit.)

Thailand passed a bill to legalise marriage equality today (Tuesday 18 June 2024) after a stunning senate upper house victory of 130 votes to four.

When enacted, the bill will make Thailand the third country in Asia, after Taiwan and Nepal, to achieve marriage equality. It also become the first country in Southeast Asia to take the step.

Same-sex sexual activity in Thailand has been legal since 1956.

The Marriage Equality Bill will afford complete financial, legal, and medical rights for married couples of any gender.

The bill now requires endorsement from Maha Vajiralongkorn, King of Thailand – considered a formality – and will then come into effect 120 days after publication in the royal gazette.

“The potential impact of this bill is immense”

Responding to the news in a statement to CNN, Panyaphon Phiphatkhunarnon, founder of LGBTQ equality campaigning NGO Love Foundation, enthused: “The bill represents a monumental step forward for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand.

“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.”

“Beyond the legal implications, the passage of this bill would send a powerful message of acceptance and inclusion,” Panyaphon added.

“It would inspire the younger generation to come out and live their lives authentically, it would showcase Thailand as a progressive and inclusive country – attracting tourists and businesses … and will foster a culture change where LGBTQ+ individuals feel accepted and supported.”

“I can feel the whole world cheering us on”

The Guardian quotes 18-year-old Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd as saying: “We’re all just really excited. I can feel the whole world is cheering us on.”

Vocal LGBTQ ally Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is expected to welcome activists and supporters to his official residence for celebrations later today. A rally is also slated for this evening in central Bangkok.

Taiwan legalised marriage equality in 2019, with Nepal following suit in 2023.

There were 18 abstentions from today’s vote.

Thailand previously passed the 2015 Gender Equality Act to provide legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression and sex characteristics.

However, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women raised concerns about the act, because it contains a provision granting exemptions to the prohibition of gender-based discrimination based on religious principles or national security.  

“LGBTI people in Thailand continue to face many forms of violence and discrimination”

Commenting on the news, Amnesty International’s Thailand Researcher, Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, said: “Thailand has taken a historic step towards becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise marriage for LGBTI couples.

“This landmark moment is a reward for the tireless work of activists, civil society organisations and lawmakers who have fought for this victory.

“While there is no doubt that the legalisation of marriage for LGBTI couples is a key milestone for Thailand, much more must be done to guarantee full protection of LGBTI people in the country.

“LGBTI people in Thailand continue to face many forms of violence and discrimination, including but not limited to technology-facilitated gender-based violence which oftens targets human rights defenders.

“The Thai authorities must build on the momentum and take further steps that protect the rights and ensure the participation of LGBTI people and organisations.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Chainwit.