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Thailand could become the first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex civil partnerships

People walk past a reflection of the Gay Pride Month logo projected on a giant screen in downtown Bangkok on June 17, 2020.

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) Thailand's cabinet on Wednesday passed a bill that will legally recognize same-sex civil partnerships and grant greater rights to same-sex couples, a prime potential for any nation in Southeast Asia if it is aproved.

If ratified by parliament, Thailand would only be the second place in Asia to allow same-sex unions to be registered after Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year.
While failing to endorse same-sex marriage, the Civil Partnership Bill allows same-sex couples to legally register their union, a significant move in what remains a largely conservative nation. Under the bill, same-sex couples can adopt children, claim inheritance rights, and manage property assets for the first time for the first time.
Ratchada Thanadirek, deputy government spokesman, said it was a "milestone for Thai society in promoting equality between people of all genders."

"The civil Partnership Bill is an important step for Thai society in promoting equal rights and supporting the rights of same-sex couples to build families and live as partners," he said in a Facebook post.
What it's like to be young and in love in Southeast Asia
What it's like to be young and in love in Southeast Asia
The bill defines civil couples as same-sex couples. To register, couples must be at least 17 years old and at least one of the couples must be a Thai citizen, which means that same-sex foreign couples will not be able to register their association in Thailand. Children under the age of 17 must obtain permission from their parents or legal guardian. The bill also covers the rules for separations.
The bill, however, fails to pass same-sex marriage and the proposed legal amendments do not give same-sex couples all the rights and benefits provided to married couples.
Some within the LGBTQ community say the bill does not go far enough since civil association is not marriage.
"The civil associations bill is not a milestone for gender equality in Thailand, it is an obstacle to achieving marriage for all," said Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, a 23-year-old LGBTQ activist and general secretary of the Progressive Youth organization Free Youth.
Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, filmmaker and first trans member of Parliament under the Move Forward Party (MFP), said it is not included in the bill is rights to spousal benefits, such as tax exemptions and Social Security benefits, and medical rights.
"Why not call everyone, both traditional and non-traditional couples, as married couples, why a special term should be assigned to LGBT as 'civil partner," Tanwarin said.

The MFP is campaigning to amend Thailand's marriage laws by changing the terms "husband and wife" to" married partner " to make them more gender-sensitive.
"This is another disguised form of discrimination," Tanwarin said. "We don't want anything special, we just want to be treated like other people."
The bill still has to go through public hearings, and the House of representatives will discuss and vote on it. If passed, the bill will go to the Senate for a second vote, a process that could take months.
Outwardly, Thailand has a reputation for being friendly to gays, lesbians and transgender people-especially compared to some Of its Southeast Asian neighbors-but the reality is often different.
There are laws prohibiting discrimination, but many local LGBTQ people say they regularly encounter prejudice and even violence. Thailand is a conservative society, and there is a stigma associated with violating traditional family values. Often, gay, lesbian, transgender, and gay people are restricted to working in the entertainment industry or feel they must hide their sexual orientation at work.



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