On Tuesday, Thailand’s Cabinet granted approval for an amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, paving the way for the legalization of marriages for LGBTQ+ couples. The amendment is expected to be presented to parliament next month for consideration. If passed into law, Thailand would be the first country in Southeast Asia to recognise marriage equality.
The proposed amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code aims to modify the existing definitions of marriage, transitioning from “men and women” and “husband and wife” to “individuals” and “marriage partners,” respectively. This adjustment is intended to grant LGBTQ+ couples equal rights compared to heterosexual couples. Such rights encompass the ability for LGBTQ+ couples to establish a family, designate partners as executors of an estate, and offer a pathway for foreign partners to reside in the country.
While Thailand is renowned for being a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ individuals, it still lacks substantive legal rights and protections for the community. Attempts to provide legitimacy to LGBTQ+ partnerships languished in parliament, with previous bills allowing marriage equality or civil unions failing to pass before the end of the previous administration. As a result, the community continues to face numerous legal challenges.
Nonetheless, numerous prominent political parties have expressed support for marriage equality during the 2023 election campaign. Notably, the Pheu Thai party, which has led the government since August of this year, has pledged to enact measures to achieve marriage equality during their administration.
Current challenges faced by LGBTQ couples
If parliament approves the amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code, it will significantly alleviate many of the limitations faced by LGBTQ+ couples in Thailand.
The proposed amendment not only addresses legal disparities but also serves as a validation for LGBTQ individuals who, up until now, have been denied the same rights and protections as their non-LGBTQ counterparts. However, even with the amendment’s passage, instructions may need to be issued to government agencies to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that civil servants are well-informed about the regulatory changes.
While the impending law is poised to grant the LGBTQ+ community improved rights and access to services on par with heterosexual partners, it should be recognised as an initial step. Substantial work remains to combat social stigma, harassment, and abuse against LGBTQ people. Policymakers must also grapple with issues related to the cross-border recognition of LGBTQ+ marriages, given that not all jurisdictions acknowledge marriage equality or guarantee the welfare of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Regardless of the challenges ahead, this represents a positive step for LGBTQ+ communities in Thailand.