‘Hope has a place’: Thailand moves forward on civil unions

On July 3, hundreds of people marched through the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second biggest city, for its fourth-ever Pride parade before converging on the ancient Tha Phae Gate where they danced and celebrated under a light drizzle.

“We are gathering together because we have to speak our voice for Pride and make everyone equal in Thailand,” said university student Nutcha Nimasang. “I want to see something change in my generation.”

Thailand is poised to become the first Southeast Asian nation to grant some form of legal recognition to same-sex partnerships, although it is not yet clear whether this will be in the form of civil unions or full marriage equality. Both proposals passed parliament on the first reading, but they will need approval from various other levels of government before becoming law.

Like many others at the parade, Nutcha is a supporter of the Move Forward Party (MFP) – the pro-democracy political party that put in a strong performance in the 2019 election and introduced the marriage equality bill. She said the push for gay marriage was “the same” as pushing for greater democracy because “it is our human right”.

Thailand has a tumultuous relationship with Pride events. After an inaugural event in 2008, a parade the following year was blocked by angry protesters, before returning in 2019. The 2021 parade was cancelled because of COVID-19.

“Marriage should have no gender, everyone should be able to marry,” Nutcha said.

MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat said he originally expected that the civil union reform would pass parliament at the expense of the marriage equality bill.

“But we managed to fight to keep both tracks open,” he told Al Jazeera in a telephone interview in June.

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