By KORNRAWEE PANYASUPPAKUN
The Justice Ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD) began work on the bill in 2013 after a gay couple petitioned for legal recognition of their right to establish families as enjoyed by heterosexual couples, but it was interrupted after a political setback in 2014.
However, the bill promoting equality of all genders should fare well under the current government, said RLPD director-general Pitikan Sithidej. The draft bill could soon be pushed forward to the ministry’s legal development department, he said.
That was good news for supporters of the bill.
“We want the bill to pass and take effect soon. I want to see it in this life,” said Kittinun “Danny” Daramadhaj, president of the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand, who helped draft the life partnership bill.
There is no clear timeline, but the bill is expected to go to the National Legislative Assembly by November to ensure it is not delayed until the next government takes office after next year’s election.
South African Ambassador Geoff Doidge said the passing of a similar bill in his country while he was a parliamentarian resulted in him being ostracised by the Christian community.
There’s a need to change some people’s views about rights for LGBT people, he said.
Many in Thailand believe that Buddhism regards homosexuality as a sign of sins from past lives, while other religions cite sacred texts, beliefs and practices related to the issue.
“We need to think about the role of religion, not only in terms of civil marriage but also religious marriage for same-sex couples,” said Vitit Muntabhorn, a UN rights expert. “Should the faith be forced to perform solemnisation ceremonies?” he asked.
In England and Australia, a priest is not forced to solemnise marriage for gay couples, while in Denmark a priest can refuse, but the church must ensure that the couple can find another priest who will perform the ceremony. “How will Thailand decide this issue?” Muntabhorn asked.
It has been a long and bumpy path for people with diverse sexual identities, but they see hope as countries pass legislation. The Life Partnership Registration Bill, if enforced, would allow same-sex couples to have civil marriages, along with intersex and “genderqueer” people. This includes those born with both male and female genitals and those identifying themselves as gender-less or as having multiple genders, said a member of the committee charged with drafting the bill. “This is a very advanced move,” he added.
Professor Amara Pongsapich, former chair of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, said the bill would soon be in place if collaboration continues between state authorities and civil society.
“We still need a ‘champion’ from the judiciary side to push forward this movement,” she said. “I have talked with several judges about this issue and I am worried.”