While many counties in Southeast Asia have laws banning homosexual relationships, Thailand has established itself as a more gay friendly country. As Reuters reports on August 21, the country may go even future by being the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage.
Thailand has already prided itself as a holiday and vacation destination for same-sex couples and by legalizing marriage in the country; it could also be a destination for weddings. Although life is less strict in Thailand than other Asian countries, same-sex couples still don’t enjoy certain rights like applying for join bank loans, medical insurance or any of the other benefits heterosexual couples enjoy because under the current Thai law same-sex unions are not recognized.
But, according to Wiratana Kalayasiri, an opposition lawmaker pushing for a new bill, a civil partnership law aiming at extending some of those same rights is in the works and can pass as soon as next year.
There are some legal road bumps, one of which is that the law would force transgender citizens to register their birth gender on their marriage certificate. Under Thai law, people are not allowed to change their gender on national identification and a new law would also change the age of consent for same-sex couples from 17 to 20. For heterosexual couples, the age of consent would remain at 17.
Another road block is that some believe Thailand may simply not be ready yet to legalize same-sex marriage. As recent as 2002, homosexuality was labeled as a mental illness in the country and was still considered a crime up until 1956. Although there is some openness and tolerance in the country, there are still social aspects that need to be improved.
Perception of LGBT characters in the entertainment industry and the overall treatment of lesbians in the country are some social impacts that require improvement. But even with those inadequacies, there is still strong hope of a civil union bill passing.