Thailand has endorsed a tentative civil partnership bill in the parliament to give some legal status and amendments to same-sex unions, almost akin to that of heterosexual marriages. If sanctioned by the Parliament, Thailand could be the second country in Asia to approve legal registrations of same-sex unions, after Taiwan – which legalized same-sex marriages in 2019. Couples will have the right to adopt kids, have joint property ownership, and also claim ownership privileges.
“The Civil Union Bill is a big move forward for the Thai community in fostering fair citizenship and endorsing same-sex couples’ freedom to create families and live as spouses. It is a milestone for Thai society in promoting equality among people of all genders. This strengthens the families of people with sexual diversity and is appropriate for the present social circumstances,” Rachada Dhnadirek, a deputy government spokesperson, said after the Cabinet backed the move. The draft Civil Partnership Act and amendments of the Civil and Commercial Code will be sent to Parliament soon for approval, she added.
The Civil Partnership Act defines ‘partner’ as two persons of the same sex at birth who are over 17 years of age and mutually agree for their partnership. Those below the age of 17 are obligated to acquire the written consent of parents, guardians, or court, first. Both or one party must be a Thai citizen. The Act allows couples to adopt children, or a partner can adopt their spouse’s child. They assert the right to jointly own properties and assets. The provisions of the Civil and Commercial Code enjoyed by heterosexuals couples are now applicable to same-sex partners, families, and adopted kids. The code’s provision also includes the rights of inheritance by the surviving partner, if one partner dies.
The amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code hampers marriage if man or woman is in more than one partnership. The union could be ended by death, voluntary separation, or court order.
Regardless, Bangkok Post reports the Bill “does not grant all the rights and benefits applicable to male-female couples, such as entitlements to spousal benefits, some forms of state welfare and tax exemptions”.
It also does not define same-sex union as “marriages”. “What’s in a name? It’s the content that matters,” said President of Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand. Those in favor of the bill celebrate the recognition of LGBT couple’s union by the government, and expect the passage to “sufficiently alleviate pains and support the human rights of LGBT people”.
Move Forward Party (MFP), who proposed the bill originally, assert the Bill passed in the Parliament is different than their version, and it fails to grant the same rights as heterosexuals couples. Representatives of MFP clarified the difference and said “citizens should not be misguided – as the same-sex union bill still does not equate to marriage equality, a bill the representatives have been pushing for.” LGBT activists argue that the Bill will emphasize the distinction, further exclude members of the LGBT community, and doesn’t cover the spectrum of marriage for them.
Criticism also surfaced from religious groups who resist the principles of the Bill. “We fully oppose the Civil Partnership Bill. We believe that it will cause inevitable damage to society. It will also cause national unrest [because newly granted privileges to LGBTQ people]will deepen inequality and injustice,” wrote a conservative religious group.
Although Thailand is relatively a free nation for members of the LGBT community, it still remains conservative at large.
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