Thailand is on the verge of legalising same-sex unions, but marriage is still ruled out

Thailand could become the first nation in Southeast Asia to allow same-sex unions as a draft bill reaches the final stage of approval in Thai parliament.

The bill, which is seven years in the making, would allow same-sex couples to jointly manage assets and inherit money from their partners.

If it finds consensus in parliament, it would make Thailand the second country in Asia to legalise same-sex unions, after Taiwan in May.

Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrate outside the parliament in Taipei on May 17, 2019. - Taiwan's parliament legalised same-sex marriage on May 17, 2019, in a landmark first for Asia as the government survived a last-minute attempt by conservatives to pass watered-down legislation.

Supporters of same-sex marriage in Taiwan celebrate outside the parliament in Taipei on May 17, 2019. (Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty)

The legislation was stalled earlier this year ahead of Thailand’s general election in March.

But now the bill looks likely to gain enough support to become law as, for the first time in Thailand’s 80-year-old legislature, there are four open LGBT+ representatives in parliament.

Kath Khangpiboon, a transgender lecturer at Thammasat University, told Bloomberg: “It’s very significant that we now have LGBT representation in politics. Success in passing such legislation in many countries comes from having representatives lobbying and working on it.”

Thailand is one of the most progressive countries in Asia when it comes to LGBT+ rights, and takes in an estimated $5.3 billion annually from LGBT+ tourists.

But LGBT+ activists note that the country still has a long way to go, particularly when it comes to transgender people, who are still not legally recognised as their correct gender after surgery.

Thai trans advocacy groups proposing a new bill to protect their rights (The Nation)

While Thailand’s proposed same-sex union bill is certainly a step in the right direction, it still does not guarantee marriage equality for LGBT+ couples.

“The partnership bill differentiates same-sex unions from marriages, and that’s pushing us further away from equality,” Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a trans parliament member, who’s part of the progressive Future Forward party, told Bloomberg.

She proposes amending the country’s Civil and Commercial Code that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman to a union between two persons. “Our law should be genderless,” she said.

The new bill is expected to reach parliament by the end of the year.