All photos: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee
When a large crowd gathered yesterday evening to rally for the right of same-sex couples to marry in Thailand, the authorities tolerated it on one condition: They only block half of Ratchaprasong intersection.
That seeming metaphor for the second-class status Thai society affords LGBTQ+ rights – tolerated but unequal – is what spurred Sunday’s demand for years of broken promises to be made right by fully extending marriage rights.
“Thailand is regarded as a haven for LGBTQ+ people … That’s only half the truth,” Chanun Yodhong, a writer and rep for the opposition Pheu Thai Party, said from the rally stage.
Hundreds were there to hoist rainbow flags and sign a petition calling for legal marriage for all regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation. The rally came two weeks after the Constitution Court rejected a challenge to the constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage, a legal maneuver meant to get around parliament, where attempts to write it into law have all but died.
As of publication time, there were more than 93,000 signatures on the petition. Organizers said they would deliver it to lawmakers once it reaches 100,000.
Apart from the petition, the four-hour rally ending at 8pm was indeed a gay affair, with live performances including a fashion show, wedding photo booth and space for supporters to write their thoughts on post-it notes.
Sudy Nataraj, an Indian national living in Bangkok, said he considers Thailand a “safe haven” for queers, and was “shocked” to learn it does not recognize same-sex marriage.
“As I would do in my homecountry, I showed up as soon as I heard that queer community is making noise to correct this farce,” Sudy said.
“Being queer, visiting and traveling in Thailand has never been as issue, however living here longterm would be a challenge without recognition of LGBTQ couples, especially now since I have a Thai partner,” he added.
The community has long campaigned for everyone’s rights to be expanded as key players in the pro-democracy movement. That meant calling for more than marriage equality at Sunday’s event, but also the right to free expression. One booth staffed by the legal reformers of iLaw floated a petition to abolish the lese majeste law, aka Section 112 of the Criminal Code.
Lawmakers have failed to pass a widely supported bill to establish civil unions, a move that still falls short of marriage equality.
A 2017 NIDA poll found 59% of respondents supported same-sex marriage with 35% opposed, according to a media report.
Annop Saengosod, transwoman social influencer known as Fluke Karon at the event in a pink dress said she wants the law changed from defining marriage as between “man and woman” to “person to person.”
“The latest ruling from the court said marriage between men and women is constitutional, but what about LGBTQ+ people? Aren’t they humans too?” the 24-year-old said. “What is the downside to equality? Will anybody lose their rights because of [marriage equality?]. I don’t understand why this bill does not get implemented.”
Still, five political parties – Pheu Thai, Move Forward, Thai Sang Thai, Chartthai Pattana and Commoners – fielded reps at Sunday’s event to take the stage and show their support.
One politician remarked that the country is still frozen in patriarchy.
“Some still believe that men dominate society, therefore the general acceptance is not as good as it should be, despite the fact that the potential of LGBTQ+ people is not less than anyone’s,” said Chartthai Pattana’s Udomsak Srisutthiwa.
“What makes us all equal is human dignity and rights. And what does that mean? It mean we all are equal under the same law,” said trans and intersex activist Nada Chaiyajit.