Thailand Lawmakers Pass Bill to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Thailand’s House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, bringing the measure a significant step closer to becoming law.

The bill passed by 400 votes to 10, with a handful of abstentions, and now the legislation goes to the Senate. If it passes there, and if Thailand’s king approves it, the country will become the first in Southeast Asia to recognize same-sex marriages. In Asia more broadly, only Taiwan and Nepal have done so.

Thailand’s bill describes marriage as a partnership between two individuals, rather than between a woman and a man. It will also give L.G.B.T.Q. couples equal rights to various tax savings, the ability to inherit property, and the power to give medical treatment consent for partners who are incapacitated. The draft will also grant adoption rights. Thai law currently allows only heterosexual couples to adopt, although single women can adopt children with special needs.

“The amendment of this law is for all Thai people. It is the starting point to create equality,” Danuphorn Punnakanta, a lawmaker who chairs the lower house’s committee on marriage equality, told Parliament. “We understand that this law is not a universal cure to every problem, but at least it’s the first step toward equality in Thai society.”

The legislation has been more than a decade in the making, with obstacles stemming from political upheaval and disagreements as to the approach to take and what to include in the bill. In December, Parliament passed four proposed draft bills on same-sex marriage; one was put forward by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s administration, and three additional versions by the Move Forward Party, the Democrat Party and the civil sector were considered. These four were combined into a single draft that was passed on Wednesday.

“This is the greatest victory,” said Nada Chaiyajit, a law lecturer at Mae Fah Luang University, Chiang Rai, who has supported the law from its beginnings. “We have been working hard with the committee. This is not only about L.G.B.T.I.Q., this is about everyone. Equality.”

Thailand is one of the most open places in the world for L.G.B.T.Q. people, though some elements of its Buddhist-dominated culture are socially conservative.