By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
The Life Partnership Bill has become a fierce battleground between conservatives and progressives. A study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found that old and conservative members of Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and Council of State are unlikely to approve this bill on the grounds that same-sex marriage would offend traditional moral and religious values.
The study also found that the young and more liberal generations are more supportive of homosexuals having the right to marry recognised, but LGBTIQ groups themselves criticised the bill for not encouraging equality. If the bill were to be passed, same-sex couples would still not have all the same rights as heterosexual couples.
This vast ideological difference between the two groups was also observed at the first meeting of the subcommittee to review the Life Partnership Bill at the Justice Ministry yesterday, where an intense debate raged on the issue of same-sex marriage legalisation in Thailand.
UN Development Programme officer for LGBTIQ rights Supanee Pongruangphan said that from the study of the Life Partnership Bill, it could be concluded that it was very hard to settle the issue to suit current Thai society.
Supanee pointed out that though conservative values in Thai society were not the only problem for passing this law, the opinion of the conservative members in the country’s law-making machinery was making it hard to get approval for same-sex marriage legalisation.
“Most of the NLA and Council of State members still disagree with same-sex marriage, as they are from the old generation who mostly have conservative ideas and they may believe that this law is not for the benefit of the majority in society,” she said.
“Even though many older generations are against the idea of gay marriage, it has been found that the younger generations are more open and liberal to this idea. So I suggest that the creation of a family law for the LGBTIQ group of people should be done on the foundation that the law should benefit the majority of the society, including the LGBTIQ group.”
Chumaporn Taengkliang, the LGBTIQ rights campaigner from Togetherness for Equality and Action Group, however, stressed that the current Life Partnership Bill was not sufficient to ensure gender equality, as same-sex couples would still not get the same rights as heterosexual couples if this law were passed.
Chumaporn said that there should be an amendment to the marriage law in Civil Code by changing the words indicating sexes to gender-neutral words. That would allow all persons to marry and be subject to the same marriage law regardless of their sex.
Meanwhile, Vitit Muntarbhorn, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University reflected on the international and domestic trends toward legalising same-sex marriage. It is more likely that Thailand will start with registering the life partnerships of same-sex couples, rather than amend the Civil Code to fully legalise same sex marriage, he said. That is because allowing life-partnership registration would have less impact on religious issues, he said, as it will not touch on the issues of having a child.
He suggested, the law on life partnership be carefully drafted to avoid future legal issues. The Life Partnership Bill is currently in the process of being reviewed by the relevant agencies and stakeholders, while the Rights and Liberties Protection Department has said it is working to complete the passing of the law by the end of this year.