LGBTQ Equality: Thailand to Legalize Same-Sex Unions

19 Jun 2022

Thailand is on a roll with its law amendments this month. Two weeks ago, it legalized cannabis (June 9), and last week (June 15), Thai legislators gave preliminary permission to legalize same-sex unions. Indeed, these two events are historic landmarks for the country, considering it is a conservative nation after all.

Still, many people continue to experience prejudice and significant obstacles even though the country has a vibrant LGBTQ community (because of the population's majority traditional Buddhist stance). Therefore, the hope is that the government will approve the law, paving the way for equality and the people's acceptance of LGBTQ individuals. 

Maysa Petkam, a competitor in the transgender beauty pageant Miss Tiffany Universe, said:

I don't want people to think we are different. We don't want more rights than other genders; we only want basic rights. I hope the same-sex marriage law passes so that there will be laws that protect and decrease gender inequality,

The lower house passed four draft laws (bills) on LGBTQ couples' rights, bringing Thailand one step closer to legal recognition of same-sex couples. The vote count was 212 to 180, with 12 abstentions and four no votes. 

A committee of legislators will now spend the next 15 days examining the bills and combining them into two proposals so that members of parliament can choose between supporting civil partnerships or full same-sex marriage. 

Thus, the measure must still overcome several more obstacles before becoming law. The next step is the second reading in the House of Representatives, where the legislative committee resubmits the two revised bills for a vote. Nevertheless, a tiny but ecstatic group of campaigners celebrated outside parliament by hugging, weeping, and waving rainbow flags after Wednesday's vote. 

 LGBTQ activist Nada Chaiyajit told AFP:

I am very happy and glad. It is a good sign in Pride month that there are MPs who want equality and vote for the bills, but there is a long way to go.

While the approval of the Civil Partnership Bill (Life Partner Bill) and Equal Marriage Bill is a step in the right direction, it still doesn't deliver equal rights if the final vote doesn't favor the Equal Marriage Bill. Thus, the LGBTQ community continues with protests. They want the government to pass the Equal Marriage Bill, the second of the two options in limbo at the moment. 

Additional details proposed by the Move Forward party's bill include changes to the terminology used in marriage law. For example, to change "husband" and "wife" to "spouse" and "man" and "woman" to "person."

What's the Difference Between the Civil Partnership and the Marriage Equality Bill?

The Marriage Equality Bill would grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples. However, the Civil Partnership Bill would grant certain privileges only, and same-sex partnerships would not be considered marriages. For example, it allows couples to adopt, support each other financially, authorize medical care on the other's behalf, and claim inheritance as legal heirs. In addition, they would be given "life-partner status."

Thus, participants in Bangkok's Pride Parade earlier this month felt that the Life Partner Bill, while it would improve the rights of LGBTQ people, was not the best option. 

Ryan Figueiredo, executive director of LGBT rights campaign group the Equal Asia Foundation, told AFP:

Civil partnerships are not equal to marriage equality; it creates an entirely different class of people. Civil partnerships seem like a consolation prize.

The Equal Marriage Bill is better because it grants same-sex couples total legal equality with man-woman marriages. In addition, the Equal Marriage Bill would extend all husband-wife privileges and obligations to same-sex couples. For example, it provides LGBTQ couples with engagement, surrogacy, civil servant benefits, social security, and tax-deduction rights. In addition, this bill would allow a Thai LGBTQ person to request Thai nationality for a foreign spouse—the Life Partners Bill does not.

Anticha Sangchai, a participant in the parade, said: 

Everyone has the right to raise a family, love, and marry anyone they love. Why can't we do that as human beings?

While Thailand is working to legalize same-sex marriage, the country is one of Asia's most accepting countries of homosexuality. Thailand's reputation as a friendly nation draws LGBTQ tourism. In 1956, same-sex relationships were legalized; in 2015, gender and sexual orientation discrimination was banned. Furthermore, Thais emphasize prudence and non-confrontation, so same-sex couples' being seen together isn't an issue. However, public displays of affection— straight and gay alike—are frowned upon.

The LGBTQ scene in Koh Phangan

Respect is the Koh Phangan community's motto. Visitors can instantly identify this to the island's distinct atmosphere. Locals and expats on this good-vibes, open-minded, paradise destination are friendly and accepting. So naturally, Koh Phangan attracts a rising number of LGBT tourists. As such, there are some gay/lesbian-owned pubs, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and beaches. 

Many are drawn here to experience the Fullmoon Party and quickly realize the other amazing things this island offers. There aren't many LGBTQ-dedicated locations, but anywhere you go is gay-friendly, so it's not really necessary. 

The places that cater to the LGBTQ community are:

  • OUT! a Radically Inclusive Hostel by Wild & Wandering: the 1st hostel on Koh Phangan catering to the LGBTQ-Friendly community.
  • Shhhh! Speakeasy is Wild & Wandering's low-key and after-hours bar tucked away in OUT! with a gorgeous view of Full Moon Beach. It features drink specials, private parties, and a place to chill for all its guests and friends. 
  • Bottle Beach, Salad Beach and Haad Yao Beach are among the most popular beaches. And Hadson Beach (located on the left of Secret Beach) attracts a sizable young gay crowd, particularly on the weekends. It's a lovely, secluded little bay on the island's west side. 
  • Head to the lesbian-owned bar and bistro L'Alcove on Hingkong Beach for a classy evening outing. At L'Alcove, you can take in the sunset while sipping cocktails, eating a plateau of cheeses and delicatessens, listening to live music and enjoying an impressive fire show on the beach. L'Alcove also has bungalows for rent. 
  • Another good place for delicious food and cocktails is the gay cocktail bar and guesthouse 4You. This spot is in the heart of Koh Phangan's town center, Thong Sala. Its convenient location and friendly service make it a perfect place to enjoy a night out. It also offers accommodation to suit all budgets. 
  • Other places to stay: Somewhere Only We Know and Island Boys

No matter where you go on Koh Phangan, the island's inherent bohemian spirit makes it a welcoming haven for all visitors.