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Same-sex marriage rights have been a continuous battle for the LGBTQ+ community in many parts of the world. From fighting for their identity and rights to being included in society, queer people have faced relentless struggle. In a historic moment, Thailand is on the verge of becoming the first country in Southeast Asia, and third in Asia after Nepal and Taiwan, to legalise same-sex marriage!

The Thai Senate, the upper house of Thailand’s National Assembly, approved a marriage equality bill on Tuesday, June 18. 130 senators voted in favour and only four members opposed the bill. LGBTQ+ supporters are calling it a “monumental step forward for LGBTQ+ rights.” The bill still requires endorsement from the Thai monarch King Rama X, but this process is just considered a formality. The law will then come into effect 120 days after it is published in the Royal Gazette.

Also Read: Pride Month Special: You Must Check Out These Indian LGBTQ+ Podcasters And YouTubers!

The Marriage Equality Bill

The new legislation changes references to “men”, “women”, “husbands” and “wives” in Thai marriage laws to gender-neutral terms such as “spouse” and “person”. This means that two persons can marry each other, regardless of their gender. LGBTQ+ couples effectively possess the same legal powers as their heterosexual counterparts in case of legal incapacitation, from being able to access bank accounts to providing consent for medical treatment.

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What This Means For Queer Couples

This bill grants LGBTQ+ couples the same legal rights and recognition as heterosexual couples. It includes rights related to inheritance, adoption, tax benefits, and healthcare decision-making. Panyaphon Phiphatkhunarnon, founder of Love Foundation – an NGO campaigning for LGBTQ+ equality in Thailand said, “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. 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,” he added.

An Inclusive Leadership

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, had promised to bring the marriage equality bill to parliament. Dressed in a rainbow shirt, Srettha attended Pride Month celebrations in Bangkok earlier in June, joining a massive parade through the capital’s streets. “It is a basic right to choose who to love,” he said in a post on X. Srettha has been keen to showcase Thailand as a welcoming destination for LGBTQ+ people. He wishes to host World Pride in Thailand in 2030.

The marriage equality bill was supported by all the major parties. It marks a significant step in cementing the country’s reputation as one of the friendliest in the region toward gay, lesbian and transgender people. The queer community hopes that this bill will start a “domino effect” in other countries. For long, queer couples have been told they can’t have children, so marriage was impossible. But now, they can freely be themselves with the people they love.

The Reception

The Bill’s cross-party support reflects Thai society’s largely positive opinions on LGBTQ+ rights and same-sex marriage. In fact, the country has had a long history of gender and sexual diversity, even though legal rights for LGBTQ+ individuals have been lacking.

The recent push towards legal recognition may be attributed to increased media representation, activism, and advocacy efforts, which have forged political support for the issue. After the Bill’s passage in the Senate, Thai PM Srettha Thavisin said that he’ll open his official residence to activists and supporters for celebrations.

While in India, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India refused to alter the Special Marriage Act (SMA) of 1954 to give legal recognition to same-sex marriages last year. The Court put the onus on the Parliament to legislate marriage equality. Thus far, there has been no movement in the matter.

Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in 36 countries globally, according to LGBTQ+ rights advocacy Human Rights Campaign. Let’s hope India joins the list soon! Because love is love!