The long journey of the Equal Marriage Law


After four years of arguments and counter-arguments, same-sex couples finally get the right to wed. But why did it take so long?

The historic push for Thailand's Equal Marriage Law has succeeded, making it the first ASEAN country to legalise marriage for same-sex couples, and granting them the same rights as opposite-sex spouses.

However, the road to the LGBTQ+ community's true celebration during Pride Month has been fraught with challenges, including societal understanding and legislative hurdles.

Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat

The journey began with the Move Forward Party, led by Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, a party-list MP, who introduced a draft amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code (also known as the Equal Marriage Bill) to the House on June 18, 2020, during the 25th parliamentary session presided over by Chuan Leekpai.

At the time, the issue received little attention, even though it represented a major change in the fundamental rights of same-sex couples.

The Equal Marriage Bill followed the necessary steps, including public hearings conducted through the House's website from July 2 to August 6, 2020. This consultation saw 54,445 opinions from a total of 1.24 million views.

Opinions were mixed, with some in favour and others opposed, leading to adjustments in the draft. Those opposed cited religious beliefs that marriage should be between a man and a woman and argued that the marriage age should remain at 20.

The bill was added to the House agenda on November 25 of that year. However, it took a year and three months to be considered, finally being discussed on February 9, 2022.

During Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's tenure, the government used a tactic to delay the bill by requesting 60 days for review, a move understood to be a way to sideline it. Despite the Move Forward Party's insistence on a vote, the minority had to concede, leading to a four-month delay.

During this period, the government prepared countermeasures, including drafting a Civil Partnership Bill through the Justice Ministry and introducing their version of the Equal Marriage Bill. The Democrat Party also supported and proposed their civil partnership bill to stay relevant.

In the parliamentary game where the majority has the advantage, they tried to reject the Equal Marriage Bill by voting separately, even though normal practice dictates that similar draft laws are usually accepted in principle together. Social pressure compelled the House to vote to accept all drafts in principle.

A special committee reviewed them and returned the revised versions to the House on November 3, 2022, with the bill added to the agenda on December 7. However, due to political manoeuvring around other issues, such as cannabis legislation, the Equal Marriage Bill was not discussed before the general elections and the formation of a new government under the Pheu Thai Party.

Undeterred, Tunyawaj resubmitted the bill in mid-2023. After another round of public hearings, it was added to the House agenda and considered on December 21. This time, with a new government and support from the Democrat Party, the bill passed the House with 400 votes in favour and 10 against on March 27, 2024.

The bill was then sent to the Senate for final approval, and on June 18, 2024, it received the Senate's consent.

The journey of the Equal Marriage Bill spanned four years, crossing two government administrations, and is now set to become law, awaiting official promulgation.