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Thailand: Draft Legislation on Civil Partnerships for Same-Sex Couples

(Nov. 5, 2013) It was reported on September 19, 2013, that the Thai government plans to introduce landmark legislation on civil partnerships that would extend most marriage protections, rights, and benefits to same-sex couples. If approved by the Thai Parliament, it would be the first civil partnership law to be adopted in Southeast Asia. (Warangkana Chomchuen, Thailand May Lead Most of Asia-Pacific on Same-Sex Benefits, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Sept. 19, 2013).)

Under the proposed law, drafted by a committee appointed by the Parliament, homosexual men and women who are at least 20 years of age would be permitted to enter into a civil partnership. (Id.) The draft defines “civil partners” as “two persons of the same sex who register their relationship under the civil partnership law,” and at least one of the partners must have Thai nationality, according to news reports. (Hundreds Back Civil Unions for Gay Couples, BANGKOK POST (Sept. 2, 2013).)

According to section 1448 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code, marriage can only take place between a man and a woman, each of whom is at least 17 years of age, and section 1458 prescribes that the consent of a man and a woman is necessary to take each other as husband and wife. (Id.; The Thai Civil and Commercial Code (Part III), SAMUIFORSALE (last visited Nov. 1, 2013).)

The draft legislation provides that same-sex couples are to be accorded insurance, pension, tax reduction, and inheritance benefits, without the existing law on marriage being altered. The draft does not automatically permit adoption or custody of children as a couple, matters that are to be handled under other Thai laws; only individual filing for an adoption by one of the partners is allowed for those not in a traditional marriage. (Warangkana Chomchuen, supra.)

Naras Savestanan, the Director of the Justice Ministry’s Department of Rights and Liberties Protection, and members of the drafting committee launched a campaign on September 18, 2013, to gather the 10,000 signatures required under the Thai Constitution and the Parliament, which call for participation from the stakeholders for parliamentary consideration of legislation. The drafting committee has no specific timetable for introduction of the draft law, but indicated that parliamentary deliberation would most likely take about two months once the legislation is submitted. (Id.; Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2550 (2007), § 163, Senate of Thailand website.)

Reportedly, no organized group has come out against the draft law, although some Thais contend it is unnecessary because they see Thai society as already being tolerant. Nevertheless, as recently as 2002 in Thailand homosexuality was considered a mental illness, and it is argued that adoption of the legislation would emphasize increased support in the country for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. (Warangkana Chomchuen, supra.)