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Thai Senate passes bill legalizing same-sex marriage

LGBTQ activist Ann Chumaporn (on large screen) addresses the floor of the Thai Senate on Tuesday ahead of a historic vote approving same-sex marriage legislation. Photo by Narong Sangnak/EPA-EFE
LGBTQ activist Ann Chumaporn (on large screen) addresses the floor of the Thai Senate on Tuesday ahead of a historic vote approving same-sex marriage legislation. Photo by Narong Sangnak/EPA-EFE

June 18 (UPI) -- Thailand passed a landmark bill Tuesday legalizing same-sex marriage, laying the ground for it to become the first Southeast Asian country, and only the third in the whole of Asia, where partners of the same sex may marry with equal legal status to heterosexual couples.

The country's 152-seat Senate approved the final reading of the legislation 130-4 with 18 abstentions and the bill is now headed to the palace for approval from King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

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The law will take effect 120 days after being announced in the Royal Gazette, clearing the way for the first marriages before the end of the year.

The law grants couples equal access to marriage and the same legal rights as heterosexual couples to adopt children and conceive through in vitro fertilization, grant medical consent and in tax, property and inheritance matters and substitutes the terms "men", "women", "husbands" and "wives" for "spouse" and "person" and other gender-neutral language.

The LGBTQ community came out onto the streets of central Bangkok for a celebratory rally in central Bangkok and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin threw open his official residence to activists and supporters as messages of congratulations poured in from around the world.

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"We're all just really excited," the BBC quoted 18-year-old activist Plaifah Kyoka Shodladdas saying ahead of the vote.

"I can feel the whole world is cheering us on," he said.

In November, Srettha, who was elected in August, threw his weight behind the campaign for full recognition of same-sex marriage saying a then-government bill that would allow same-sex unions to be registered as partnerships did not go far enough.

The vote by the upper house comes three months after representatives in the lower house of parliament voted 400-10 to adopt the bill, revising the definition of marriage from a union between a man and a woman to a partnership between two individuals and extending tax breaks, inheritance rights and healthcare consent to people in same-sex relationships.

The move in Thailand comes five years after Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2019. Same-sex marriage in Nepal became legal across the Himalayan nation in April, 10 months after the Supreme Court ordered the government to begin registering marriages of couples of the same sex.

Public support for the change is overwhelming with 96.6% of people polled in a 2023 government survey last year in favor and major political parties including same-sex marriage rights in their election manifestos.

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