Thailand makes history as first Southeast Asian country to legalise same-sex unions

A same-sex couple poses in wedding dresses as members of the LGBTQIA+ community take part in the Pride March in Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand is set to go down in history as the first Southeast Asian country to legalise same-sex unions after approving a historic bill. 

The country’s Cabinet has approved draft legislation which will allow same-sex couples to register their partnership in Thailand, Bloomberg reported. The bill avoids the term ‘marriage’, but it will allow same-sex couples rights to jointly own property, adopt children and have inheritance rights between partners. 

The bill now goes to the country’s Parliament for approval before it can become law. If passed into law, Thailand would be the first Southeast Asian country to approve such legislation. 

It would also be the second jurisdiction in Asia to allow same-sex union after Taiwan legalised same-sex marriage in 2019, according to Bloomberg

Deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said Tuesday (7 June) that the Cabinet endorsed an earlier version of the bill, which was sponsored by the justice ministry in July 2020. But she said the government needed to study the bill and get public feedback before it was approved. 

“The Civil Partnership Bill is a milestone for Thai society in promoting equality among people of all genders,” Dhnadirek said back in July. “This strengthens the families of people with sexual diversity and is appropriate for the present social circumstances.”

Under the proposed legislation, civil partnerships are defined as couples of the same sex, and people in the relationship must be at least 17-years-old to register, Bangkok Post reported. At least one person in the relationship must be a Thai national. 

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are dressed in wedding dresses as they walk down a rainbow walkway while they take part in the parade to mark pride day 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand

Members of the LGBTQ+ have criticised Thailand’s Civil Partnership Bill for not going far enough to promote queer rights in the country. (Anusak Laowilas/NurPhoto via Getty)

Advocates have argued that the bill is a big step forward for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand, but they have argued that it doesn’t go far enough.

Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, LGBTQ+ activist and secretary-general of progressive youth organisation Free Youth, said the bill “isn’t a milestone for gender equality in Thailand”, CNN reported. Instead, Tattep argued it’s an “obstacle to reach marriage for all”. 

Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, filmmaker and first trans member of parliament under the Move Forward Party, questioned why the legislation won’t “just call everyone, both traditional and non-traditional couples, as married partners”. 

“This is another form of discrimination in disguise,” Tanwarin said. “We don’t want anything special we just want to be treated like others.”

Pauline Ngarmpring, who was Thailand’s first trans candidate to run for prime minister, said the “foundation of the same-sex union law draft isn’t based on equality”. 

“But it’s better than nothing,” she said. “This is not a fight that can be finished in our generation.”