The Thai LGBTQ community has finally earned a long-sought victory as the country is working on a bill that would recognize same-sex civil unions by the end of the year.
Earlier this year, the Justice Minister started drafting the Civil Partnership Bill after 60,000 people signed a petition that aimed to restart discussions on a 2013 bill supporting LGBTQ rights.
“Ever since the Justice Ministry began pushing the bill, the feedback from the LGBT community has been good,” Pitikan Sithidej, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, told the Bangkok Post.
“More than 60,000 signatures were collected to show support for the bill. It is believed there are still many more quiet supporters since many in the LGBT community have yet to show their support.”
Parliament will vote on the the bill before it becomes the Civil Partnership Act. According to Nikkei Asian Review, the military government aims to pass it ahead of the next general election, which takes place in early February.
Thailand’s current laws only recognize heterosexual marriage. An individual in a same-sex relationship cannot receive the remains of a dead partner or hold the same rights that heterosexual partners have over matters of inheritance.
If the bill passes, same-sex partners will reportedly be granted rights on hospital visitation, inheritance, taxation and welfare.
Unfortunately, it will still restrict certain rights to heterosexual couples, such as the adoption of children.
Speaking to The Nation, Ratthanan Prapairat, who has been in a same-sex relationship for more than 20 years, said that he and his partner will register as soon as the bill becomes a law.
“It is a must-have that should have been in place years ago as it would be very helpful in protecting the rights of same-sex couples.”
Prapairat and his partner have already bought a house, started a clothing business and run a family like other straight couples.
“Same-sex couples are no different from straight couples. We have accumulated a lot of assets and heritage together. This law will be great for us.”
Thailand, regarded as one of the safest places for LGBTQ+ individuals in Asia, decriminalized homosexuality in 1956 and declassified homosexual behavior as a mental illness in 2002.
As of 2015, the nation had most anti-discrimination policies in place.
Thailand’s move for same-sex civil unions follows Taiwan’s ruling of same-sex marriage in May 2017 — a first in Asia.
However, if Thailand passes the bill before Taiwan revises its law, Bangkok will be the first to recognize same-sex partnerships in court.