Activists call for parliament to pass Marriage Equality bill

LGBTQ rights activists went to parliament yesterday (8 September) to file an open letter calling for parliament to pass the Marriage Equality bill in its second and third readings.

Activists gathered at parliament yesterday (8 September) to file an open letter calling for the approval of the Marriage Equality bill.

Activist Chumaporn Taengkliang told reporters that the activists came to parliament because it has been three months since a Drafting Committee on the Civil Partnership bill and the Marriage Equality bill had been formed, and they were concerned with reports of homophobic attitudes among committee members, and that some members have said that they will not let the Marriage Equality bill pass or that LGBTQ people should not be subject to the same laws as heterosexual people.

Chumaporn said that the group wanted to reiterate their call for equal marriage rights, and their demand that the Marriage Equality bill be returned to parliament for its second and third readings before the upcoming general election.  

The open letter calls on the Drafting Committee to finish the drafting process before the end of the current parliamentary session on 18 September. It then calls on parliament to move the Marriage Equality bill up as an urgent matter, and to pass it in its second and third readings so that it can be passed onto the Senate.

It notes that passing a law legalising LGBTQ marriage would be in accordance with Thailand’s obligations as state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which protects the right of marriage and requires state parties to guarantee equal rights and duties for married couples, and also stipulates that the law must guarantee to all persons equal protection against discrimination.

Section 27 of the Thai Constitution also states that all persons are equal before the law and must receive equal rights and protections from the law. 

The Marriage Equality bill and the Civil Partnership bill both passed in their first reading on 15 June and are currently being discussed by the Drafting Committee, which announced during a press conference on Monday (5 September) that it intends to push for them to go before parliament for their second and third readings before the end of the current session.

The Marriage Equality bill was proposed by MPs from the Move Forward Party (MFP) and proposes to change the terminology used in the current marriage law to make it gender neutral thereby allowing marriage regardless of gender. Meanwhile, the Civil Partnership bill, proposed by the Ministry of Justice and endorsed by the Cabinet, originally set out a civil partnership as a union between two people of the same gender, both of whom must be at least 17 years old and at least one of whom must be a Thai national, but the Drafting Committee has said that it amended the bill so that couples of different genders can also register as civil partners.

The Civil Partnership bill has been criticized for being unclear about what rights it grants, and whether current laws on marriage and the family would apply to civil partners. Concerns have also been raised that separate legislation for LGBTQ marriage would worsen the stigma against the LGBTQ community in Thailand.

Citing the more than 350,000 signatures on the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality’s petition proposing amendments to the Civil Commercial Code to allow marriage between LGBTQ couples, as well as the 50,000 comments made on the bill when it was put up for public consultation on the parliament’s website, the letter states that the people have shown that they want the Marriage Equality bill to become law, and that legislators must listen to these voices.

The letter also condemns the homophobic and discriminating attitude reportedly shown by some members of the Drafting Committee, which it says is inappropriate for a Member of Parliament who should be working for equality for the people.

Julapun Amornvivat

Their letter was received by MFP MP Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, who is also a member of the Drafting Committee, and Pheu Thai MPs Theerarat Samrejvanich, Julapun Amornvivat, and Mookda Pongsombat.

Julapun said that the Pheu Thai Party and other opposition parties fully support the Marriage Equality bill, and will not change their stance, as the world has changed, and modern society has to accept diversity. He also said that Pheu Thai MPs and other opposition MPs are ready to stand for the bill in parliament.

He noted that, after a bill has passed its first reading and has been accepted in principle, any opinion that is reserved at the committee level cannot contradict the principles of the law that parliament has accepted. This means that no committee member may reserve their opinion or propose a motion to reject a bill that has already passed in its first reading.

Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat

Meanwhile, Tunyawaj, who proposed the Marriage Equality bill and is also a member of the Drafting Committee, said that he is concerned with the attitudes of some committee members, but does not want to attack a specific party. He noted that conservative lawmakers tend to see the Civil and Commercial Code as “sacred,” and tend not to think about how the law can be changed to make it more inclusive.

Other than noting the homophobic attitudes of some committee members, who said that LGBTQ people should be controlled by a separate law or that being LGBTQ is unnatural, Tunyawaj said that one committee member is intending to get the Marriage Equality bill rejected. He called on the public to keep an eye on the bill, as this member is planning to formally ask whether it is a bill relating to finance in order to block it.

Under Section 142 of the current Constitution, a bill proposed by MPs or by collecting voters’ signatures, if it is deemed to be finance-related, must be approved by the Prime Minister before it is proposed.

Tunyawaj insisted that the Marriage Equality bill is not related to finance, as every official will continuing registering marriages as they have been doing, and no new agency will be set up if the bill becomes law.

“This is a right that has been taken from us. We are not asking for it,” Tunyawaj said.

He called on the media to follow the situation, as blocking the Marriage Equality bill is blocking equality and gender-based discrimination.

“Thailand must change,” he said. “It’s time the Civil and Commercial Code was changed. It’s time for rights and welfare to be given to LGBTQ people as married couples, with equal rights, dignity, and welfare for people of every gender.”

Chumaporn Taengkliang

After the activists submitted their letter, Chumaporn added that people may think that marriage equality is too much for the Thai society to accept, or that things must be done slowly, but the group insisted that changes to legislation are important and that society is ready.

“We know well that many people think that marriage equality goes too far and is too difficult for Thai society to accept, or that it is something that must proceed gradually, so many people think that what is important now is the Civil Partnership bill,” she said. “But the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality, Naruemit Pride, and LGBTQ rights activists insist that we are ready to make Thailand the first country in ASEAN to allow everyone to register their marriage equally.”

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