Thailand’s government has introduced a bill to legalise same-sex civil partnerships.
The landmark move would make Thailand only the second country in Asia – after Taiwan – to officially recognise same-sex couples.
Last year, the highest court in Taiwan stated that restricting unions to heterosexual couples was unconstitutional, and ruled that same-sex marriage would automatically pass into law in May 2019 if Parliament doesn’t legalise it before then.
And according to local publication The Nation, Thailand may beat Taiwan to that deadline.
The justice minister is set to present the final draft of the bill to the Cabinet for approval after a subcommittee is done with creating it, a source at the ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department said.
It is expected to be passed before the next general election, which is set to be held in February 2019.
Ratthanan Prapairat, 38, said he had been with his partner for more than 20 years, and that together, the two men have bought a house and run a clothing business.
Prapairat said he would register under the proposed law, adding: “It is a must-have that should have been in place years ago as it would be very helpful in protecting the rights of same-sex couples.
“Same-sex couples are no different from straight couples. We have accumulated a lot of assets and heritage together. This law will be great for us.”
After 50-year-old Vitaya Saeng-aroon’s partner was taken into hospital earlier this year, he didn’t know of his death until a relative let him know.
Saeng-aroon said the legislative shift would give same-sex couples the right to have a say over their partner’s medical care, and to be present with them in the hospital.
“I was not permitted to sign any document after he went into a coma,” he said. “I was not his relative, even though I had been taking care of him for over a year.
I had to wait for his brother from upcountry to show up. After a week in ICU, he passed away peacefully,” he added.
“I did not know about his death until his brother called me.”
He said that the law would legitimise same-sex relationships, and the LGBT people in general.
“It’s not only about equality, but also about humanity,” said Saeng-aroon.
“Gay people need to be recognised as common couples in every supporting aspect. That will bring wider understanding towards the true meaning of diversity.”
The unions carry some of the same benefits as marriage, especially relating to housing and hospital visits.
The city of 1.5 million people, located on the northern coast of the island of Kyushu, was the seventh city or ward in the country to legalise same-sex partnerships.