Thailand's Lower House Approves Same-Sex Marriage Bill, Awaits Senate and Royal Approval

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Thailand is poised to become Southeast Asia's pioneer in recognizing LGBTQ+ unions. Although the bill has cleared the lower house, it awaits approval from the Senate and endorsement from the king to officially become law.

Thailand's lower house of parliament passed a bill on Wednesday that would legalize same-sex unions in the country. However, for the bill to become law, it still requires approval from the Senate and endorsement from the king.

Thailand boasts one of the most open LGBTQ communities in Asia, yet activists argue that the country's conservative laws do not accurately represent the community, despite evolving social attitudes.

The bill received overwhelming support from 415 lawmakers present, with only 10 votes against it.

"We pursued this for the benefit of all Thai citizens, aiming to diminish societal disparities and foster equality," stated Danuphorn Punnakanta, chairman of the parliamentary committee on the draft bill, addressing lawmakers prior to the reading. "I urge you all to be part of this historic moment."

Nearly all major parties in Thailand backed the bill.

"Today, society has demonstrated its concern for LGBT rights," remarked Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, a member of the progressive Move Forward Party, which has been advocating for LGBTQ rights. "Finally, we will have the same rights as others."

If the bill passes, Thailand would become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill proposes replacing gender-specific terms like "men," "women," "husbands," and "wives" with gender-neutral language.

Despite Thailand's vibrant gay and transgender community, the Thai LGBTQ community currently lacks many rights reserved for legal partners. If enacted, the new law would grant same-sex couples the right to adopt children and access several privileges, including tax deductions, medical consent for spouses, joint property management, and inheritance rights.

Across Asia, only Taiwan and Nepal currently recognize same-sex marriage, while India's highest court deferred the decision to parliament in October.