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Thailand Takes a Historic Step Closer to Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

The Thai LGBTQ community participates in a Gay Freedom Day Parade in Bangkok in 2018. From

The lower house of Thailand’s parliament, the House of Representatives, today passed a landmark bill to legalize same-sex marriages. Thai politicians voted overwhelmingly in favor, with 400 representatives supporting the legislation, and only 10 members opposing. Five members did not vote after a four-hour debate.

The bill now needs to be approved by the Senate, followed by formal endorsement from the Thai king, before the law can become reality in Thailand—a process that could still take some months to realize, although it is expected to be completed before the end of this year. If successful, Thailand would become the third nation in Asia to recognize marriage equality, and the first in Southeast Asia.

Taiwan became the first Asian government to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019, while Nepal has taken progressive steps toward equality, most recently in November 2023, when Nepal’s government recognized a marriage between two Nepalis of the same legal gender for the first time.

Although Buddhist-majority Thailand, which decriminalized homosexuality in 1956, is broadly open to and accepting of non-mainstream sexual and gender identities, LGBTQ+ people still experience discrimination and prejudice from many aspects of society and in day-to-day life, where traditional mores continue to hold sway. Activists say that LGBTQ+ people continue to face social hurdles in education, the workplace, the healthcare system, the military, the monastic community, and are often rejected by their own families due to traditional patriarchal expectations.


In response to the news, the Bangkok-headquartered International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), a worldwide network of individuals and organizations who are committed to promoting and working toward social justice, environmental sustainability, and world peace, shared the following message with BDG:

INEB extends its heartfelt congratulations to the LGBTQIA+ communities on the historic passage of the same-sex marriage bill in the Thai parliament today! This significant milestone is a testament to the collaborative efforts of numerous civil groups, highlighting the power of partnership and democratic practices. 

The bill acknowledges the self-determination of non-cisgender individuals in their relationship choices (and beyond), empowering community members to claim the space that rightfully belongs to them, and ending the unjust discrimination regarding equal marriage. 

As we celebrate this initial achievement, we remain hopeful for its approval by the Senate and Constitutional Court. The next crucial step is securing the right to be legally recognized as guardians of children. 

Again, congratulations!

Formed in 1989 by the renowned Buddhist scholar and activist Prof. Sulak Sivaraksa, INEB works to promote understanding, cooperation, and connection among inter-Buddhist and inter-religious groups, and to actively address urgent global issues such as human rights, conflict resolution, and environmental crises. 

INEB has founded and operates social projects and outreach programs across the region aimed at overcoming suffering and empowering vulnerable communities through the practice of the Dharma and social engagement. INEB’s initiatives include education and training programs, community development projects, advocacy and lobbying efforts, and interfaith dialogue. INEB is particularly active in working toward social empowerment for marginalized groups, which includes building a foundation of support for gender equality and social inclusivity for the LGBTIQ+ community in Southeast Asia.*

Religious leaders and activists attend an INEB gathering, Interfaith Pride: Gender Equality and Social Justice,* in 2023. Image courtesy of INEB

Ahead of today’s parliamentary ballot, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on the draft bill, Danuphorn Punnakanta, underscored the significance of the legislation: “We did this for all Thai people to reduce disparity in society and start creating equality.” (Al Jazeera)

“This is the beginning of equality. It’s not a universal cure to every problem but it’s the first step toward equality,” Danuphorn noted. “This law wants to return these rights to this group of people, not grant them the rights.” (BBC News)

Once implemented, the legislation would officially revise the definition of a marriage from between “a man and a woman” to between “two individuals,” while their legal status would change from “husband and wife” to a “married couple.”

“Today society has proved to us that they care about LGBT rights,” said Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, an MP with the progressive Move Forward Party, which has been a vocal proponent of LGBTQ+ rights. “Now we finally we will have the same rights as others.” (France 24)

Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, a spokesperson for human rights activist group Fortify Rights, hailed the historic decision. “It’s a huge step for our country—it is the first in Southeast Asia, Mookdapa said, expressing hope that the later stages of the bill would progress smoothly, so that Thailand “will be on par with the international level in terms of LGBT rights.” (France 24)

Thailand is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country, with 93.5 per cent of the nation’s population of 69 million identifying as Buddhists, according to government census data for 2018. The Southeast Asian kingdom has some 40,000 temples and around 300,000 Buddhist monks. While communities of female renunciants also exist, including fully ordained female monks, the monastic authorities in Thailand have never officially recognized the ordination of women, and bhikkhunis do not yet receive the same level of societal acceptance as their male counterparts.

* Engaged Buddhism: INEB Hosts Landmark Interfaith Gathering in Bangkok for Gender Equality and Social Justice (BDG)

See more

International Network of Engaged Buddhists
INEB – International Network of Engaged Buddhists (Facebook)
House passes landmark marriage equality bill (Bangkok Post)
Thailand moves to legalise same-sex marriage (BBC News)
Thai parliament passes same-sex marriage bill (Al Jazeera)
Thai lawmakers approve a bill to legalise same-sex marriage (France 24)

Related news reports from BDG

International Women’s Meditation Center Foundation Announces Outstanding Buddhist Women for 2024
Engaged Buddhism: INEB Hosts Landmark Interfaith Gathering in Bangkok for Gender Equality and Social Justice
Thai Lawmakers Move Forward on Marriage Equality as Bangkok Celebrates Pride Parade
Buddhist Bhutan Becomes the Latest Asian Nation to Decriminalize Homosexuality
Buddhist Monk Seeks Equality, Acceptance for Thailand’s LGBT+ Communities
Thailand Moves to Recognize Same-sex Unions

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