Thailand: Civil partnerships bill sparks debate

Thailand could become the first country in Asia to endorse same-sex marriage after a bill that would allow same-sex unions was approved.

The country’s Cabinet approved the civil partnership bill on Dec. 25, which has sparked debate among members of the LGBTI community. The move is seen as a milestone in efforts to improve legal rights for the estimated 6 million LGBTI people — an estimated 8 percent of the country’s total population — who live in Thailand.

Officials with the prime minister’s office told the Bangkok Post newspaper that a Thai citizen who is at least 20-years-old would be able to register their civil partnership with their same-sex partner, share assets and estates and adopt children under the bill. The officials say the differences are with eligibility for state welfare programs and income tax deductions.

While many in the country have applauded the move as the first step toward full marriage equality, some activists doubt the new bill will achieve this goal in the future. They prefer the amendment of existing civil codes to include same-sex marriages.

Pongthorn Chanlearn, a Thai activist who is the director of the M-Plus Foundation, a local LGBTI advocacy group, says the country’s LGBTI community is still debating the pros and cons of the civil partnership bill.

“Thai LGBTs are divided into two camps with regards to enacting the civil partnership bill,” Chanlearn told the Washington Blade. “On one side, same-sex couples will get the official recognition and support from the government if they can register their union, but it would go only as far as 80 percent of what the heterosexual couples have upon their marriage. The proposed bill will not satisfy the needs of people 100 percent but this is just the start.” Read more via Washington Blade