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Thailand May Be The First in Southeast Asia to Allow LGBT Marriage

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The law in Thailand wouldn’t go as far as endorsing LGBT marriage. However it would allow same-sex couples to jointly manage assets and liabilities, and to inherit from their partners.

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BANGKOK – Since elections in Thailand’s lawmakers don’t agree on much, however within both camps there’s growing support for legalizing same-sex unions.

Seven years of work has yielded a draft bill that is near the final stage of approval in parliament. If passed, Thailand would be the first in Southeast Asia to allow such unions.

The law in Thailand wouldn’t go as far as endorsing same-sex marriage. However it would allow same-sex couples to jointly manage assets and liabilities, and to inherit from their partners.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle basically agree on the principles behind the legislation. Though opposition members have criticized it for not going as far enough. Proponents say it’s a step in the right direction in recognizing  rights for the LGBT community.

The bill — approved by the Cabinet late last year ahead of March’s general election — is back in the spotlight as the new parliament is in full session. One difference this time is that there’s a group of elected, LGBT representatives in the parliament. The first time in the history of Thailand’s eight-decade-old legislature.

“It’s very significant that we now have LGBT representation in politics,” said Kath Khangpiboon, a transgender lecturer in the social administration faculty at Thammasat University. “Success in passing such legislation in many countries comes from having representatives lobbying and working on it.”

Though Thailand has an LGBT-friendly image and takes in an estimated $5.3 billion annually from LGBT visitors. The country’s laws are mixed in accommodating LGBT rights.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal, yet some in the LGBT community say they have trouble finding jobs outside the tourism, media and entertainment industries.

Currently, same-sex couples don’t have legal rights.