Activists campaign for marriage equality on Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, activists in Bangkok and several other provinces organized activities to campaign for marriage equality, after the proposed amendments to the marriage law to allow registration of marriage regardless of gender were delayed by parliament.

Activists holding up a Pride flag during the activity at Central World

As part of the campaign, on Monday morning (14 February 2022), activist Phromsorn Weerathamjaree and his partner went to the Bang Rak Grand Postal building, which Bang Rak District was using for marriage registration for the day, to request marriage registration.

Their request was denied on the grounds that they were both male and registering their marriage would be against the Civil and Commercial Code, which states that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman.

Phromsorn said that the marriage equality campaign is a demand for a right they are already entitled to as Thai citizens, and that since the Constitution states that everyone has equal rights, he and his partner did not do anything other than what the Constitution allows them to do but that they are making it better.

He said that a couple registering their marriage is not only about expressing their love, but also about the right to care for their partner. “How can we take care of the people we love if we are not able to care for them in an emergency? This is the most important thing… Marriage registration means we are able to take care of each other,” he said. “Together, we are taking the first step today to show the authorities that love is not exclusive to certain people.”

Activists gathering by the Central World shopping mall while holding a Pride flag

Meanwhile, the Bang Khun Thian District Office organized the “Candle of Love” event, in which LGBTQ couples could “declare their love” on Valentine’s Day at The Bright Rama 2 shopping mall, where the district office took marriage registration requests for the day. However, the certificate they were handing out is not a legal document. The move has been criticized by activists and members of the public as ineffective and an exploitation of LGBTQ rights for publicity purposes.

Phromsorn said that while he is thankful for the event, he has questions about its purpose, since LGBTQ people want to be able to legally register their marriage. He said that a certificate which is not legally binding means nothing, and that the most important thing is that everyone can register their marriage regardless of gender.

Human rights lawyer and LGBTQ rights activist Nada Chaiyajit told Bangkok Post that she urges the authorities to grant the right to marry to everyone, and said that she sympathises with people who take part in the activity because they have no better option.

Meanwhile, Move Forward Party (MFP) MP Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, who proposed a marriage equality bill to parliament last year (2021), praised the Bang Khun Thian District Office for organizing an activity which could help raise awareness about LGBTQ rights. He said that, although it is disappointing that the certificate is not legally binding, he is glad that a government agency is paying attention to this issue of inequality and joining in the campaign effort.

Tunyawaj and other MFP MPs proposed the marriage equality bill to parliament in early 2021. It went before parliament on 9 February 2022 for a first reading. However, parliament voted to have it forwarded to the Cabinet for a 60-day review period.

The bill proposed that the terminology used in the current marriage law be changed to use “spouse” instead of “husband” and “wife” and “person” instead of “man” and “woman.” If passed, the proposed amendments will allow individuals to be legally married regardless of gender, and ensure that they receive equal rights, duties, and protection under the law. If the bill passes, LGBT couples who have registered their marriage will be able to adopt children together, make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, and in cases where one partner dies, the other will be able to inherit from their partner and make legal decisions about their partner’s assets.

Tunyawaj said he hopes that the cabinet will accept the marriage equality bill and return it to parliament for a first reading. He said that many LGBTQ couples participated in the Bang Khun Thian District’s event, and he hopes that the Cabinet will take them into account and grant them the same legal recognition as other couples.

While the event was taking place, the gender equality network Feminist FooFoo also handed out leaflets containing information about the marriage equality bill being proposed by civil society and a QR code for people to sign the online petition to put the amendments before parliament. They also handed out Pride flags and stickers for people who came to sign the petition.

The bill is similar to the MFP bill and proposes to amend Article 1448 of the Civil Commercial Code, which governs marriage, so that marriage registration is allowed between two people of any gender, instead of only between a man and a woman. It also proposes to raise the age at which people can legally marry from 17 to 18 years old.

The petition also proposes to replace the terms “man” and “woman” in every article of the Civil and Commercial Code relating to marriage with “person,” as well as to replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” and “father” and “mother” with “parents.”

The online petition, launched on 28 November 2021, now has over 290,000 signatures, almost 30 times the number legally required for a bill from the citizenry to be put before parliament.

In the evening, activists from the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality network gathered by the Central World shopping mall, holding a large Pride flag. They also handed out leaflets containing information about the proposed amendments to the marriage law to allow LGBTQ couples to register their marriage, as well as a QR code for people to sign the online petition to put the amendments before parliament.

The activists then walked to the nearby Trimurti Shrine, a popular spot for people to pray for success in romance, where they prayed for there to be no obstacle in their campaign for marriage equality.

Activists praying at the Trimurti Shrine

Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality and the LGBTQ rights group Young Pride Club staged a rally for marriage equality, in which they travelled to different locations across Chiang Mai and conducted a poll on whether Thailand should have a marriage equality law, and invited people to sign the online petition to propose the marriage equality bill.

The activists also took a photograph in front of the Mueang Chiang Mai District Office and set up a stage in front of Maya Lifestyle shopping centre to give speeches.

Student activists from Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakran Udon Thani School also conducted a poll among students and staff members on whether they think LGBTQ couples should be allowed to get married, as well as taking comments on gender equality issues from students and staff.

In Sakhon Nakon, activists set up a booth at a local park for people to sign the petition for the marriage equality law. They also handed out Pride flags, leaflets, and stickers, and sold campaign t-shirts.

Activists conducting a poll at Chiang Mai University. Their poll cardboard shows that all of the participants agreed with marriage equality

Other than the marriage equality bill proposed by MFP, and the bill proposed by civil society which is currently gathering signatures, another bill is waiting to go before parliament. In June 2020, the Cabinet approved of the Civil Partnership bill proposed by the Ministry of Justice, which defines “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.

The Civil Partnership bill has previously been criticised by NGOs and LGBTQ rights activists, who questioned the need for separate legislation legalising LGBTQ marriages and raised concerns that the bill will deepen the stigma against the LGBTQ community in Thailand. They also criticized it for not giving LGBTQ couples the same rights as heterosexual couples and for being unclear about whether certain rights are granted, such as whether a person in a civil partnership is allowed to make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, or whether they are allowed to take their partner’s last name.

On 17 November 2021, the Thai Constitutional Court ruled that Article 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which states that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman, does not violate Section27 of the Constitution, which states that all persons are equal, and equally protected, under the law. The ruling sparked public outrage, especially after the full ruling was released and found to be archaic, sexist, and homophobic, such as when it defines marriage as “when a man and a woman are willing to live together, to build a husband and wife relationship to reproduce their offspring, under the morals, traditions, religion and the laws of each society” and that it is therefore reserved only for a man and a woman.

The ruling also mention that LGBTQ people cannot reproduce and that LGBTQ marriage is against the natural order, and that they cannot form the same “delicate bond” as that of heterosexual families. It also said that legalizing LGBTQ marriage would place a greater “burden” on the government to provide welfare and benefit to LGBTQ couples. Another part of the ruling also compared LGBTQ people to animals with strange behaviour.

Nevertheless, it observed that parliament, the Cabinet, and other relevant agencies should draft legislation to grant rights to LGBTQ people.

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