Thailand to become first Southeast Asian country to legalise same-sex unions

The bill will allow couples to adopt, jointly manage assets and liabilities and have inheritance and heritage rights between both parties.

A same-sex couple in Thailand pose with rainbow flag.
Image: Instagram: @mike.ography

Thailand is on course to becoming Southeast Asia’s first country to legalise same-sex unions. The Cabinet approved a draft bill proposing the legislative change on Tuesday, June 7, following discussions with LGBTQ+ and religious groups, and it will now be forwarded onto Parliament for approval.

While the legislation does not explicitly permit marriages, same-sex couples will be able to adopt, jointly manage assets and liabilities, and will receive inheritance and heritage rights should it pass. The landmark moment would make Thailand just the second nation in Asia to allow such partnerships, following Taiwan which legalised same-sex marriage in 2019. It would also make them the first Southeast Asian nation to do so.

The Cabinet’s decision comes six months after the Constitutional Court ruled that the country’s law should expand to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people. Deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek explained that while the Cabinet had endorsed an earlier version of the bill, officials needed to study the legislation further and receive community feedback before progressing it to the next stage.

Speaking on the legislative change, Dhnadirek said: “The Civil Partnership Bill is a milestone for Thai society in promoting equal rights and supporting the rights of same-sex couples to build families and live as partners […] This strengthens the families of people with sexual diversity and is appropriate for the present social circumstances.”

The new law will apply to same-sex couples aged 17 or over who are seeking a legal union, and at least one of the pair must be a Thai national.

Today’s news follows another landmark moment which occurred on June 5, when Bangkok Pride made a triumphant return after 16 years. Although it appears that Thailand is working to become more accepting and inclusive, many activists feel that it is simply not enough. 

“The civil partnerships bill isn’t a milestone for gender equality in Thailand, instead it’s an obstacle to reach marriage for all,” said Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, Secretary-General of Free Youth.

Filmmaker and first Trans member of parliament under the Move Forward Party added: “Why not just call everyone, both traditional and non-traditional couples, as married partners, why does a special term have to be assigned to LGBT as ‘civil partner’?”

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