Thailand's parliament took a significant stride towards achieving marriage equality in the country by passing bills legalizing same-sex unions during their first reading.
Thailand took a big step towards marriage equality two weeks ago, with parliament voting to legalize same-sex unions in its first reading.
Four bills relating to same-sex marriage and civil partnership were approved. Two of these bills would legalize same-sex marriages, while the other two would only allow same-sex civil partnerships.
This vote is, of course, only an initial approval, and the bills still need to be passed by the Taiwanese parliament in a second reading, but it is still an important step. It represents a major shift in attitude in a Buddhist majority country that still faces many barriers and discrimination against its LGBTQ+ community.
"This is a very good sign," Chumaporn "Waddao" Taengkliang, of the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality, said at a conference after the approval of the bills. "There should be the same standard for all genders, whether it's a civil union or marriage."
The four bills have now been sent to a 25-member committee for review. The committee will then deliberate on whether to send one of the bills, or a combined bill, for two additional readings in the House. Once this bill has been approved by the House and then by the Senate, it will finally need to get royal approval before it becomes law.
If any of the bills are passed, Thailand would become the second country in Asia to allow same-sex unions after Taiwan, which became the first-ever Asian country to legalize marriage equality in 2019.
Although it's still early days yet, the initial vote in favor of same-sex unions in Thailand was celebrated by LGBTQ activists as a sign of progress.
Nada Chaiyajit, an LGBTQ activist, told AFP that she was "very happy and glad" to see MPs vote in favor of such bills, even though she acknowledges that there is still a long way to go.
"It is a good sign in Pride month that there are MPs who want equality and vote for the bills," she said. "But there is a long way to go."
Thailand may have a reputation as a tolerant country, but it still has a long way to go to protect the rights of its LGBTQ+ community.
Contrary to what one might think, and even though there is indeed a visible and open LGBTQ+ scene in major cities like Bangkok, Thai laws and institutions still discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBTQ+ people.
Thai activists are working hard to change these discriminatory laws and policies, but they still have a long way to go.