First Southeast Asian country plans to legalize gay marriage

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Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin plans to present legislation next week to legalise same-sex marriage, becoming Thailand the first government in the region to do so. Thavisin and his opponents have both pledged to enhance LGBTQ rights.

Thavisin announced on Thursday on X (previously Twitter) that his cabinet would examine the marriage equality measure next week. If the cabinet approves, the law would be introduced in parliament in December, according to a prime minister’s spokeswoman.

“I see this as important in order for society to be more equal,” Thavisin said, adding that he would follow the marriage measure with two other pieces of legislation, one of which would allow transgender persons to change their gender on their birth certificates.

The marriage equality bill will likely face little opposition in parliament. Thavisin’s 11-party coalition supports the legislation, as does opposition leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s eight-party alliance, which promised to introduce a similar bill after winning the most seats in this May’s general election, but failing to form a government. 

Thailand has a strong LGBT subculture, with over 50,000 people participating in this year’s Bangkok Pride march. However, the country’s laws remain conservative, and civil unions or cohabitation between same-sex couples are not recognised.

Similarly, prostitution is prohibited, despite the fact that sex is openly marketed in Thai bars and on tourist drags; and the government does not recognise gender changes, despite the fact that Thailand has nearly 315,000 transgender persons.

No neighbouring country recognises same-sex marriage or partnerships, and homosexuality is illegal by imprisonment in both Malaysia and Myanmar. Only two Asian countries, Taiwan and Nepal, provide same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.