Thailand Could Actually Beat Taiwan to Legalizing Same-Sex Unions and Benefits
The Justice Minister of Thailand has been drafting a Civil Partnership Bill that’s expected to be introduced in the country’s parliament this September. If approved the Thailand civil union bill will grant same-sex couples the same legal rights as married straight couples.
According to reports, the Justice Minister began drafting the Civil Partnership Bill after 60,000 people signed a Change.org petition asking the minister to help restart discussion around a stalled 2013 LGBTQ rights bill. LGBTQ activists at the time criticized the 2013 bill for not including rights around trans identity and same-sex adoption.
While this Thai civil union bill will not address trans identity either, it will finally grant same-sex adoption rights. It will also reportedly outline same-sex spousal rights in regards to hospital visitation, inheritance, tax laws and welfare benefits.
Chief of the Right and Liberties Protection Department Pitikan Sithidej said, “The bill is now being vetted by the ministry. We expect to finish considering it by the end of September. After that, it will be forwarded to the cabinet for approval before being submitted to the National Legislative Assembly [Parliament] for deliberation.”
While Thailand decriminalized homosexuality back in 1956, declassified gayness as a mental illness back in 2002 and has had most LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections in place since 2015, the country doesn’t yet legally recognize gay couples nor does it grant them any adoption rights.
This Thailand civil union bill seems to have been spurred in part by the 2017 Taiwan court ruling demanding that the Taiwanese government legalize same-sex marriage by May 2019. Either Thailand or Taiwan will likely become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex unions.
In May 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Council ruled that the government had two years to implement a law granting same-sex couples the rights and privileges of marriage. But the council didn’t specify how the legislature should do it. Because the legislature moved slowly, Taiwan’s anti-gay groups were able to successfully petition the election commission to hold a non-binding election referendum on same-sex marriage this November.
The result of the Taiwan referendum may have no impact on the legislature’s decision as the court ruling will still stand regardless of the vote’s outcome.