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Thai Cabinet Approves Bill to Legalize Same-Sex Partnerships

Thailand is on its way to allowing same-sex unions.

The New York Times reports that the Thai cabinet approved the Civil Partnership Bill this week. The bill still needs to make it through parliament to become law, and it does not actually mention the word "marriage," but it is an important step.

If passed, same-sex couples would be able to jointly own property, adopt children, and pass on an inheritance. Both individuals in a couple would need to be at least 17 years old, and one must be a Thai citizen.

Ratchada Dhnadirek, a deputy government spokesperson, told the newspaper: "The Civil Partnership Bill is a milestone for Thai society in promoting equality among people of all genders. This strengthens the families of people with sexual diversity and is appropriate for the present social circumstances."

While Thai culture is conservative at times, it has long been considered relatively open to LGBTQ people, though discrimination remains, as is true around the world.

Critics have also noted the lack of "marriage" in the bill. "The foundation of the same-sex union law draft isn't based on equality," said Pauline Ngarmpring, a transgender woman who ran for prime minister in 2019. "But it's better than nothing. This is not a fight that can be finished in our generation."

If parliament passes the bill, Thailand would become the second country in Asia to offer some sort of legal equality for same-sex couples. Last year, Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage, becoming a regional pioneer in equality.

The Thai bill would not be as comprehensive as Taiwan's, but it would still place Thailand well ahead of Southeast Asian neighbors such as Singapore and Malaysia, where gay sex is considered a criminal offense. 

Vietnam, meanwhile, eliminated a ban on same-sex marriages on January 1, 2015, but the country does not provide any legal protection for such unions.

[Photo via Flickr page Stock Catalog]

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