Thailand could become the second country in Asia and the first in ASEAN to recognise same-sex unions.
The Civil Partnership Bill, drafted by the Ministry of Justice, had been endorsed by the Thai Cabinet on 8 Jul 2020 and would be tabled to the Parliament. Under the Civil Partnership Bill, civil partners (defined as same-sex couples) will be able to legally adopt children and jointly manage assets. Couples of age at least 17 years old, and of which at least one of the pair is a Thai citizen, will be able to register themselves as civil partners. Those below 17 years old would require parental consent.
Besides the Civil Partnership Bill, the Parliament will also examine a more liberal proposal put forth by the Move Forward Party, which proposed amendments to existing legislations to recognise the union of couples within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community as spouses.
Why the Civil Partnership Bill is important?
Although Thailand is known for for being a relatively open society for the LGBTIQ community, traditional definition of marriages in its laws meant that LGBTIQ couples are not recognised in the eyes of the law. This meant that couples are not able to adopt children, inherit assets as a couple, or even be recognised as a legal next-of-kin who can make important decisions on behalf of their other half.
The Civil Partnership Bill also creates greater space for the LGBTIQ community, which faces discrimination at the workplace and society.
Yet, it is not enough..
The Civil Partnership Bill does not cover couples who are both foreigners, hence those who are living in Thailand will still be recognised as two separate individuals in the eyes of the law.
Also, current law does not allow change in gender. Hence, a born female and a trans woman would not be recognised as Civil Partners. They cannot be married legally as well.
Developments in the Civil Partnership Bill will be closely watched by LGBTIQ community within the ASEAN region and may well inspire similar advocacy and recognition within the ASEAN community.