Thailand Becomes the First Southeast Asia Country to Legalise Same-Sex Marriage

Hey, have you guys heard the incredible news from Thailand?

They’ve just made history by passing a marriage equality law, making them the first country in Southeast Asia to recognise same-sex marriages.

This is a huge victory for the LGBTQ+ community and a massive step forward in the fight for equal rights!

Let me break it down for you in simple terms so we can all appreciate the magnitude of this achievement.

A Historic Vote

On 27 March 2024, Thailand’s lower house of parliament achieved a milestone by passing a marriage equality Bill at the final reading.

Then on 18 June the same year, Thailand’s Senate passed the final reading of a marriage equality bill with an overwhelming majority.

Out of 152 senators, 130 voted in favour, while only four opposed and 18 abstained. This decisive vote marks the end of a long battle fought by activists and supporters for over two decades.

The bill now awaits royal approval, which is largely a formality.

Once the king signs it, the law will come into effect 120 days after being published in the royal gazette. This means we could see the first same-sex weddings in Thailand as early as October.

The new law is a game-changer. It amends existing marriage laws to use gender-neutral terms, replacing references to “men,” “women,” “husbands,” and “wives.”

This means same-sex couples will have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Think about it—things like inheritance, adoption, and making healthcare decisions for your partner.

Essentially, it levels the playing field, allowing all couples to enjoy the same protections and benefits.

Celebrations and Reactions

Thailand is already known for its vibrant LGBTQ+ culture and tolerance, making it a popular destination for tourists. The passage of this bill further cements its reputation as a welcoming and inclusive country.

During the month of June, aka Pride Month, Bangkok was awash with rainbow colours, with giant shopping malls in the city flying rainbow flags in support. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin even opened his official residence to activists and supporters for celebrations. 

When the bill was passed, there were, naturally, massive celebrations amongst the public.

Activists and supporters are planning celebrations, including an evening rally and drag show in Bangkok, to mark this historic achievement. 

In the Senate, lawmakers and activists waved rainbow flags and cheered in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

In Chiang Mai, a northern province, human rights activist Matcha Phornin, her wife Veerawan Wanna, and their adopted daughter watched the proceedings with bated breath.

When the bill passed, they hugged and cheered, knowing their family would now be legally recognised and protected. Matcha was especially thrilled because this law means their daughter will now be legally adopted.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, a strong advocate for the bill, joined Pride Month celebrations in Bangkok earlier in June, dressed in a rainbow shirt to showcase his commitment and support of LGBTQ+ rights.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), he celebrated the bill’s passage and reaffirmed his government’s dedication to social equality. His support has been crucial in pushing this bill through, and he’s become a bit of a hero for the LGBTQ+ community in Thailand.

Panyaphon Phiphatkhunarnon, founder of the Love Foundation, an NGO campaigning for LGBTQ+ equality in Thailand, hailed the bill as a monumental step forward.

He emphasised that this legislation will not only change the lives of countless couples but also foster a more just and equitable society. The bill sends a powerful message of acceptance and inclusion, inspiring the younger generation to live authentically and showcasing Thailand as a progressive and welcoming country.

A Beacon of Hope for the SEA Region

Thailand joins Taiwan and Nepal as the only places in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. This is particularly noteworthy given the region’s generally conservative stance on LGBTQ+ rights.

In many Southeast Asian countries, same-sex relations are criminalised, and members of the LGBTQ+ community face significant discrimination and even violence. 

In places like Myanmar and Brunei, same-sex relations can lead to severe penalties, including imprisonment. Even in Indonesia, where homosexual sex isn’t technically illegal except in the extremely conservative province of Aceh, LGBTQ+ people face widespread discrimination, police raids, and vigilante attacks.

Thailand’s move sets a precedent for other countries in the region, showing that progress is possible even in regions with deep-seated conservative values.

Pokpong Jitjaiyai and Watit Benjamonkolchai, a couple from Bangkok, expressed their hope that this bill will start a “domino effect” in other nations.

Pokpong recalled a time when same-sex couples couldn’t imagine having families or getting married. Now, with this legal recognition, they can live openly and proudly.

It’s not just about the legal benefits for them; it’s also about the societal validation and the message it sends to other LGBTQ+ individuals who might still be struggling with acceptance.

They hope this change will inspire other countries to follow suit and show that love is love, no matter what.

While the bill’s passage is a significant victory for many, the fight for full equality is not over.

Some activists have pointed out that the new law doesn’t address issues faced by transgender and non-binary people, who are still unable to change their gender on official documents. It may seem insignificant, but this can cause all sorts of problems in daily life, from opening a bank account to getting a job.

Despite Thailand’s reputation for tolerance, LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination in everyday life. The new law is a step in the right direction, but there’s more work to be done to ensure all members of the community enjoy equal rights and acceptance.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has been vocal about his support for the LGBTQ+ community and the marriage equality bill. He has also expressed a desire to host World Pride in 2030, showcasing Thailand’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights on a global stage. 

Hosting World Pride would be a huge deal. It’s one of the biggest LGBTQ+ events in the world, drawing in millions of people. By aiming to host it, Thailand is not only showing its support for LGBTQ+ rights but also positioning itself as a leader in the global movement for equality.

In other words, it is a bold move that could inspire other countries to step up their game.

While there are still challenges to overcome, this historic moment is a cause for celebration and a testament to the resilience and determination of activists and supporters who have fought for equality for over two decades.

Thailand has shown that love truly knows no boundaries, and this victory will inspire future generations to continue the fight for a more just and inclusive world.