Thailand’s move to legalize same-sex marriage sets a precedent for Southeast Asia

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Opinions from the London School of Economics, Thai.News, and The Diplomat


Thailand is on the verge of becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize marriage equality after lawmakers on Wednesday passed a law banning same-sex marriage.

Of the 415 MPs in the lower house of parliament, 400 people voted in favor of the billwhich is now going to the Senate, where it will pass, before the King of the country approves.

The new liberal government and youth activism have made LGBTQ+ issues a priority in Thailand, where traditional Buddhist beliefs sometimes create obstacles for the community. The bill’s passage could also serve as a framework for LGBTQ+ legislation in other countries in the region, as polls show support for the community.


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Youth activism helped change Thai attitudes towards LGBTQ+ issues

Sources: TIME Magazine, London School of Economics, Reuters, Voice of America, Thai.News

Thailand has faced obstacles in providing legal protection to LGBTQ+ people because of its Buddhist culture – although it is known among foreigners for its culture. “‘ladyboy’ cabarets, and LGBTQ+ beach clubs,” said TIME magazine. However, the amount of to encourage the youth it has caused people to feel open minded, according to what a researcher from the London School of Economics said. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government – elected after months of student-led protests against the former conservative government – has vowed to reverse Conservative-era laws, such as video screening. it is considered offensive featuring LGBTQ+ themes. Famous Buddhist monks have also been the most important word in the movement of equality, breaking tradition in talking about gender and the politics of sexuality. The latest bill is “declaration of Thai culture” which marries liberals with deep Buddhist beliefs, according to the Thai.News website’s editorial team. They wrote: “It reinforces Thailand’s reputation as a holy place of love.”

Thailand’s implementation of same-sex marriage as a social empowerment has lessons in Southeast Asia

Sources: Pew Research Center, The Diplomat, The Nation, Reuters

Most people in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand support same-sex marriage, however the issue has grown slowly in the past due to the government’s concern over politics, which is often seen as a Western culture, Southeast Asia journalist David Hutt wrote for The Diplomat. Myanmar’s former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, for example, was a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights when she was against it, but when she came into office she never talked about enacting any laws. “Gender issues are not important” in Myanmar, one of his close friends said in an interview with The Daily Beast in 2016.

The Thai government has succeeded in furthering the cause of same-sex marriage by making it circular expanding human rights and family responsibilities for homosexuals, instead of giving equality to a previously oppressed minority. That marriage equality strengthens society is likely to be the most persuasive argument in Southeast Asia, Hutt wrote, adding that “Thailand should serve as an example for conservatives and critics alike.”

Many Muslim countries in Southeast Asia are persecuting LGBTQ+ people

Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, CNN

While Thailand is moving towards a more egalitarian world, many Muslim countries in Southeast Asia are becoming increasingly resistant to LGBTQ+ movements within their borders. In Indonesia, gay rights groups canceled events because of security threats from the country’s religious leaders, and the Malaysian government has said the threat of prison time for proud Swatch watch wearers. Malaysia’s LGBTQ+ organizers, meanwhile, are reluctant to draw on outside support. In 2023, she kissed singer Matt Healy on stage with a male colleague at a concert in Kuala Lumpur protesting Malaysia’s anti-gay laws. Protesters said to kiss “he would have done more evil than good” encouraging the government to destroy the community, CNN reported. “They thought they were doing something to us, but it’s giving them a clean sweep,” a Malaysian player told the newspaper.

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