Thailand moved closer yesterday to becoming the first Southeast Asian country to allow same-sex unions with cabinet approval of the long-stalled civil unions bill.
While the action brings the measure out of years of limbo, it remains opposed by those who say it falls short by not extending full marriage rights to LGBTQ+ couples.
#WeDoNotWantCivilPartnershipBill has been trending on Thai Twitter since last night as the Civil Partnership Bill grants legal recognition and some rights, but does not guarantee LGBTQ+ couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples.
“We don’t want the Civil Partnership Bill because it reinforces that people of diverse genders are second-class citizens. It makes us look like an outsider who needs a separate law when it comes to love, building a family, or registering a marriage,” said Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, the first openly transgender lawmaker and filmmaker of the once-banned film Insects in the Backyard. “Why is it so difficult to make it the same law? #MarriageEquality.”
Today, the opposition Move Forward Party will submit its Marriage Equality Bill to the parliament after it was previously rejected in late March by the cabinet, which claimed it was redundant with the civil union legislation.
In essence, the Civil Partnership Bill, if passed, will allow LGBTQ+ couples to register a civil union, not marriage. While it will grant couples the rights of inheritance, adoption, and asset management, it still fails to permit the couples’ rights to surrogacy nor recognize a spouse as the next of kin on medical records.
Move Forward Party’s MP Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat said that his proposed Marriage Equality Bill, unlike the government-backed Civil Partnership Bill, will “truly stand” for all the people, regardless of their gender.
“Why do we need the Marriage Equality Bill? Because with this bill, all people will be entitled to their basic rights equally,” Tunyawaj said. “I think it’d be ridiculous if we act on other bills.”
Rights group Fortify Rights issued a statement calling out the Civil Partnership Bill for codifying an unequal hierarchy. It calls on the cabinet to adopt the Marriage Equality Bill instead.
“The current law in Thailand creates a hierarchy of citizens based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” said Amy Smith, executive director at Fortify Rights. “This marriage equality bill has the potential to eliminate the discrimination that exists between LGBTI+ couples and other couples and, in doing so, will bring Thailand’s laws in compliance with international standards as well as its constitution.”
Lesbian and feminist rights advocate Matcha Phornin also weighed in. She said the government-back bill reflects bias toward the LGBTQ community.
“The Civil Partnership Bill is not the same as the Equality Marriage Bill,” Matcha said. “As a member of the rainbow family, I want the Marriage Equality Bill only.”
Government spokesperson Ratchada Thanadirek said the Civil Partnership Bill will be forwarded to the parliament for approval for ratification into law.