Marriage Equality bill passes first reading in historic step for Thailand

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The Parliament approved the Marriage Equality Bill on Wednesday in its first reading, with 218 for and 180 against. The votes were largely along party lines with PPRP leading in the opposition.

This is a long-sought-for and a rare victory moment for the Thai LGBTQ+ community.

The discussion around legalizing same-sex marriage first took place a decade ago (2012) which centered around a civil-union-partnership bill.

Civil partnership, according to critics, does not equal to marriage equality.

Couples registered under this regime were given less legal benefits compared to hetero marriages. For example, right to adopt and medical decision-making in the place of spouses.

The road for marriage equality in Thailand is bumpy.

The coalition-led parliament employed numerous tactics to delay the discussion of the bill on the parliament floor. Late last year the Constitutional Court ruled unanimously that barring same-sex couples to marry is not unconstitutional, despite the very constitutional clause guaranteeing equal treatment to all.

The Parliament also approved series of civil partnership bills introduced by different political parties. According to Move Forward Party’s MP, Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, these draft bills do not genuinely lead to gender equality the LGBTQ+ community is fighting for.

For example, the civil partnership bill proposed by the cabinet still fails to clearly grant the rights for civil union couples to adopt a child, and get citizenship in case one of the spouses is a foreign national, among others. It may perhaps reveal the intention of the cabinet that is reluctant to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex couples.

The approved bill will have to go through several other readings and must be approved by the Senate whose members are notoriously conservative before it can be signed into law. But it is a welcomed development, nonetheless.

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