(CTN News) – When it comes to his wedding day, Somphat Satanavat is planning big.
He has searched for the ideal neoclassical or colonial-style hotel to host the feast. He has thought about who should play traditional Thai music and clearly knows what he wants to perform.
For him and his long-term partner, it remains an unfulfilled fantasy because he is gay and lives in Thailand, a country where marriage is legally mandated to only involve males.
I [am] planning only in my mind,” Somphat stated.
Maybe that will change shortly.
A measure to expand the definition of marriage in Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code to include any two “individuals” was approved last week by the cabinet of the Thai government.
Legalizing same-sex marriage would make Thailand the second Asian country (after Taiwan) to do so and the first in Southeast Asia if Parliament were to approve the measure.
With any luck, next month will find the administration moving swiftly to hold the first of three votes necessary for the bill to become law.
The prime minister is eager to push it. Government spokesperson Chai Watcharong told Al Jazeera that the bill’s sponsor is eager to get it debated in Parliament as quickly as possible.
“All legal rights after they marry will be 100 percent like man and woman,” he stated, if and when confirmed.
Since everyone should be free to choose their own lifestyle, we don’t see any reason to say no. They love each other even though they are male.hence, they ought to be entitled to it,” he emphasized.
The two preceding administrations introduced two separate bills legalizing same-sex unions or marriage. On each occasion, however, they could not pass a bill through the lower house before Parliament was dissolved to allow for national elections, thus beginning the process all over again.
Those fighting for LGBTQ rights in Thailand see this as their greatest chance to pass the bill so far.
With just a few months left in its four-year term in office, the Thai government has more than enough time to pass the measure (barring an unexpected coup or collapse). The measure has the support of major political parties from both the Republican and Democratic camps.
Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand policy analyst and consultant Rapeepun Jommaroeng anticipates resistance from certain religious groups, particularly the Christian and Muslim minorities in the mostly Buddhist nation. The organization fights for LGBTQ rights. They will probably not scuttle the bill, though, he claims.
The country’s stance on forcing religious leaders, priests, or monks to officiate same-sex marriages has been made clear, according to Rapeepun.
Nobody is being coerced into doing something they aren’t comfortable with by this law. According to him, this is intentionally broad so that everyone can have equality.
All it takes is freedom and liberty for two people to be together.
The fact that Muslims in Thailand’s southernmost regions can seek to have Islamic law supersede some national laws (except those about defense and security) could also help the measure pass more easily.
Muslims in the south should, therefore, be exempt from the Civil and Commercial Code and its modifications.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, government spokesman Chai stated that the rule does not pertain to Muslims residing in certain provinces.
In contrast, members of Thailand’s LGBTQ community see this measure as a harbinger of a new day, one that will grant them more tolerance, equality, and freedom to be who they truly are.
“If it passes, it means that the country has progressed to another level of civil liberty or civil freedom to recognize the diversity in Thai society,” Rapeepun stated.
“Now is the moment for them to revel in being authentic and free from deceit.”
According to Tunyawat Kamolwongwat, one of the first four openly LGBTQ MPs elected to Thailand’s Parliament in 2019, it can genuinely mean the difference between life and death.
The re-election took place in May, and he reflected about a journey to the north of the nation last year. During that trip, a young woman came up to him and told him the story of a gay buddy who had been rejected by his family and had taken his own life.
His family’s rejection of his lifestyle led him to make the decision to end his own life. “I believe things will change soon so people can come out,” Tunyawat added, adding that he was crying when she told him the story.
According to Tunyawat, the LGBTQ community would finally have a voice with the legalization of same-sex marriage.
We may stand up and tell the bully, ‘I am a human being, and you are not.’ Because everyone has the same rights.
Additionally, the bill would remove a number of barriers that have previously only been available to married people, including the ability to adopt children from same-sex couples.
Declining that they are legally a couple is not just about marriage status. Transgender activist and gender studies professor at Thammasat University in Thailand Kath Khangpiboon said that there is a legal component as well as social welfare, social assistance, and other benefits.
The advantages include tax breaks and the ability for spouses to co-manage assets, transfer wealth on to one other, and provide medical consent to each other.
For example, Somphat, owner of a confectionary company, has been troubled by thoughts of not being able to leave his share in the operation to his life and business partner in the event of his death or by the prospect that his partner may be denied the ability to make decisions regarding his medical care if he falls into a coma.
Marriage would also open up a world of public health benefits for LGBTQ government workers.
A trans woman Somphat knew from her time teaching at a public school shared the story of her boyfriend, who desperately needed thousands of dollars to pay for treatment for a terminal disease.
Somphat related that the couple was unable to tie the knot, which meant that the lady could not include her partner in her health insurance, and since they could not afford the therapy, he tragically passed away.
“I would prefer to spend the day enjoying flowers and company rather than merely exchanging rings,” Somphat stated. He emphasized the importance of our country’s laws acknowledging his identity.
The bill’s backers hope that if Parliament approves it, Thailand’s legal climate will reflect the country’s reputation as an ally to the LGBTQ community.
Nearly 80% of respondents to a 2022 National Institute of Development Administration poll favored making same-sex marriage legal.
Proponents of the bill say the military, which supports the country’s extremely conservative monarchy and has substantial political clout both directly and through proxy parties, and conservative political contributors are to blame for the bill’s slow development.
The pressure from Thailand’s neighbors, according to Rapeepun, is another reason for the delay.
The Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nations of Brunei and Malaysia, as well as Myanmar, have passed laws criminalizing homosexual and lesbian intercourse. For people who are longing for change elsewhere or for those who are fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation, he believes that Thailand can soon serve as a “beacon” of hope.
Somphat can’t wait for that day to arrive.
“If it is feasible, I will visit the government office and register to be married on the first day,” he declared.
“I can tell anyone, by the law he’s my husband…” he said. It sounds like it’s going to be a joyous occasion.