UCA News

Thailand approves same-sex marriage

First weddings are expected as soon as October as new legislation will come into force 120 days after publication in gazette
Members of the LGBTQ community celebrate after the Thai parliament passed the final senatorial vote on the same-sex marriage bill, at Government House in Bangkok on June 18, 2024.

Members of the LGBTQ community celebrate after the Thai parliament passed the final senatorial vote on the same-sex marriage bill, at Government House in Bangkok on June 18. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 19, 2024 05:29 AM GMT
Updated: June 19, 2024 05:38 AM GMT

Thailand on June 18 became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, in a historic parliamentary vote hailed as a "victory" by campaigners.

The upper house Senate gave final approval -- by 130 votes to four, with 18 abstentions -- to changes to the marriage law allowing same-sex couples to tie the knot.

The new legislation will now go to King Maha Vajiralongkorn for royal assent and come into force 120 days after publication in the official Royal Gazette.

Thailand will become only the third place in Asia where same-sex couples can get hitched, after Taiwan and Nepal, and activists are hoping the first weddings could be celebrated as early as October.

"We are very proud of everyone involved in this historic moment. You have helped to bring about a massive change," Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, an LGBTQ activist and member of the committee that scrutinized the law, told senators after the vote.

"Today love wins over prejudice."

Ahead of the vote, Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, an MP with the progressive Move Forward Party, said the change in the law was "a victory for the people."

The new legislation changes references to "men", "women", "husbands" and "wives" in marriage laws to gender-neutral terms.

It also gives same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones when it comes to adoption and inheritance.

"My partner has one boy and I want to have legal rights to formally adopt him as my child and to have a say about his well-being. This bill will allow it," Kevin Pehthai Thanomkhet, 30, told AFP.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who has been vocal in his support for the LGBTQ community and the bill, opened his official residence to activists and supporters for a celebration after the vote.

"We have fought a long time because we believe in all equal rights," Srettha wrote on his X account after the vote.

"Today is our day. We celebrate 'diverse' love, not 'different'. Love is beautiful and powerful."

In central Bangkok, a crowd of activists celebrated the news by watching a drag show and decorating the grounds of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre with a giant rainbow flag.

"As a Thai person, I am very proud," Korakoch Jeumsanga, a 23-year-old spectator, who was watching the event, told AFP at the celebration.

"This bill benefits both straight and gay people. I had goosebumps when the bill passed."

Miles Enriquez-Morales, a tourist from California, said he hoped more countries would follow Thailand's example.

"With all the anti-LGBTQ sentiment in US and Europe, I hope that more countries will follow suit in legalizing same-sex marriage in different parts of the world," he said.

Joe Yang, 32, a tourist from Guangzhou in China who attended the event with friends, said the outcome of the vote was "great news" for Thailand.

"This would not happen in China," he said.

"You know given the reputation of Thailand I thought that you guys would have legalized it already. I am happy for Thai people."

Long struggle 

Thailand has long enjoyed a reputation for tolerance of the LGBTQ community, and opinion polls reported in local media show overwhelming public support for equal marriage.

More than 30 countries around the world have legalized marriage for all since the Netherlands became the first to celebrate same-sex unions in 2001.

But in Asia, only Taiwan and Nepal recognize marriage equality.

India came close in October, but the Supreme Court referred the decision back to parliament.

"I am so happy to see how far we have come," said Chotika Hlengpeng, a participant in the Pride march that drew thousands of enthusiasts in Bangkok early in June.

The June 18 vote is the culmination of years of campaigning and thwarted attempts to pass equal marriage laws.

While the move enjoys popular support, much of Buddhist-majority Thailand still retains traditional and conservative values.

LGBTQ people, while highly visible, say they still face barriers and discrimination in everyday life.

Some activists have criticized the new laws for failing to recognize transgender and non-binary people, who will still not be allowed to change their gender on official identity documents.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia