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Could Thailand become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage?

Could Thailand become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage?

A gay wedding ceremony in Thailand (Photo: Youtube)

Thailand may beat Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Thailand’s military government wants to pass a Civil Partnership Act before elections slated for February next year, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has been slow to implement a 2017 court ruling that the Civil Code must be changed to legalize same-sex unions.

Currently, no countries in Asia recognize equal marriage.

‘The [Thai] junta wants to pass [the act] before elections in order to help them gain support from the LGBTI community, as well as from the international community’ said Titipol Phakdeewanich, Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Ubon Ratchathani University.

‘Now [the military] are doing everything to increase their popularity’, he told Gay Star News. The junta is keen to shore up support ahead of the first elections since it assumed power in a 2014 coup.

Predominantly-Buddhist Thailand is conservative, but the country is becoming more accepting of LGBTI individuals. It has long been an LGBTI tourist destination.

Taiwan, meanwhile, is widely considered one of the best places to be LGBTI in Asia.

In May last year, Taiwan’s top court gave the government two years to legislate marriage equality before it became legal by default.

But Taiwan’s legislature has been slow to act. Next month, the country will hold referenda on whether to change the Civil Code or introduce new, separate legislation.

Delays

Thailand’s legislation could also take a while, according to Titipol Phakdeewanich. Technically, the bill should pass consultations likely to take longer than a few months.

‘The State should conduct consultation with stakeholders, analyse any impacts that may occur from the law thoroughly and systematically’, he explained. ‘It should also disclose the results of the consultation and analysis to the public’.

It is possible, however, that the military will skip this process.

LGBTI rights activists in Taiwan, meanwhile, are frustrated at President’s Tsai Ing-wen’s failure to follow up on the Constitutional Court’s judgement. Tsai campaigned for elections in 2015 on a promise to better LGBTI rights.

Government inaction had created ‘divisions within society’, Jennifer Lu, coordinator of activist group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told Gay Star News.

Last week, Taiwan’s election commission agreed to hold a referendum on 24 November on whether the country’s civil code should recognize same-sex marriage.

Legal but not equal

Conservative campaigners in Taiwan pushed for a referendum on whether to change the country’s civil code or enact separate legislation for same-sex partnerships.

Conservative group, the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, argued for a separate law to protect ‘family values’. They don’t want Taiwan’s Civil Code amended.

Equal marriage campaigners in the country have denounced such a ‘civil partnership’ law as failing to give genuine equality.

Similarly, in Thailand, critics have said the bill does not offer the same rights as opposite-sex unions. Civil partners, for example, will not be able to adopt children.

‘The legaliztation of same-sex marriage through the Civil Partnership Bill will only be the very first step to truly promote equality’, Titipol Phakdeewanich told Gay Star News.

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