Lawmakers in Thailand voted on Tuesday to approve a marriage equality bill, a move that puts the country on a clear path to becoming the first in Southeast Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. Thailand’s Senate passed the bill by 130 votes to 4, with some abstentions, on Tuesday afternoon. It was approved by the House of Representatives in March. The legislation would become law after it is reviewed by a Senate committee and the Constitutional Court and receives royal assent from the king, a formality that is widely expected to be granted.
“After 20 years of trying to legalise this matter,” activist Plaifa Kyoka Shodladd said in the Senate chamber after the vote, “finally, love wins.” The bill’s passage underscores Thailand’s status as a relative haven for gay couples in Asia.Only Taiwan and Nepal have legalised same-sex marriage.
In some Asian countries, gay sex is a criminal offense. Indonesia, where gay marriage is illegal, made extramarital sex illegal in 2022. In 2019, Brunei made gay sex punishable with death by stoning. It later said it would not carry out executions, after widespread international protest.
After the bill’s passage, hundreds of supporters gathered in downtown Bangkok to celebrate the milestone despite the punishing heat, waving flags and throwing colorful balloons at a Pride rally. A parade began with the bang of a firecracker and confetti flying in the air. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” played at the rally, as well as a ’90s-style Thai pop song called “History”, with the lyrics: “History won’t repeat anymore, history’s about to change its course, change toward equality.” PM Srettha Thavisin said he would host a celebration for activists on Tuesday, though he said he could not attend the event because of a Covid infection.
Thailand’s bill, which amends the country’s civil and commercial code, calls marriage a partnership between two people age 18 and above, without specifying gender. It also gives LGBTQ couples equal rights to adopt children, claim tax allowances, inherit property and give consent for medical treatment when their partners are incapacitated.
The bill has been contentious since its first version was introduced over 20 years ago. While Thailand is one of the most open places in the world for gay couples, it is socially conservative in other ways. In Feb, lawmakers dismissed a proposal to let people change genders on official documents. But a majority of the Thai public supports the marriage equality bill. Last year, 60% of adults in Thailand said they backed legalising same-sex marriage in a survey.

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