June 16, 2022
BANGKOK – The Marriage Equality Bill of the opposition Move Forward Party to allow same-sex marriage sailed through the first reading on Wednesday despite the government’s relentless efforts to shoot it down.
The bill was passed with 210 votes for and 180 votes against at 4.21pm after many opposition MPs took turns to debate in support of it since 11.50am.
Twelve MPs abstained while four others did not cast their votes. A total of 406 MPs were present when the vote was called.
The bill was drafted by Move Forward party-list MP Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat.
It was initially set to be deliberated in March but the Cabinet asked the House to put in on hold for the government to discuss it first. But the Cabinet later rejected it on grounds that the Justice Ministry has a similar and better draft called Civil Partnership Bill.
On Wednesday morning, when the House was about to vote on the Marriage Equality Bill, the coalition whip asked the House to put the vote on hold, saying the government is proposing two alternative drafts for the House to deliberate on.
The coalition whip said the government has sponsored the Civil Partnership Bill and a bill to amend the Civil and Commercial Code in accordance with the civil partnership registration.
Earlier, the coalition whip unveiled its strategy that it would kill the Marriage Equality Bill when the House was asked to vote on an individual bill.
The House was asked to vote for four drafts and passed all of them. The other draft was another version of the civil partnership bill sponsored by Democrat party-list MP Issara Sereewattanakul.
The civil partnership bill of the Cabinet was passed by 229 to 166 while the Issara version sailed through 251 to 123, while the government’s bill to amend the civil code was passed 230 to 169.
Observers said the passing of the first reading of the Marriage Equality Bill was just the first hurdle. The bill is yet to be scrutinised by a special House committee along with the two civil partnership bills of the government and the Democrat MP and the civil code amendment bill.
Observers said the government may use its majority in the ad hoc House panel to change the content of the opposition’s bill during the vetting.
During the vote in support of the Marriage Equality Bill, Move Forward Party MP Natthapong Ruangpanya (Bangkok) sought permission from Deputy House Speaker Supachai Phosu, who chaired the meeting, to show video clips of public comments in support of the bill. But Supachai did not allow the video to be played.
Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome (party-list) said during the debate that the Marriage Equality Bill would not make the country poorer, but it would create sexual equality.
“I don’t understand the coalition whip’s resolution to kill it,” Rangsiman said.
He said if the House failed to pass it, the people in the future would demand an explanation from the current MPs.
“Please pass the bill and do the right thing because you all cannot stop the changing trend of this world anymore,” Rangsiman said.
While opposition MPs debated in support of the bill, Move Forward lawmakers waved multicoloured flags and they also held a banner, saying “we are everywhere” in English and “marriage quality” in Thai.
Natthanun Assawalertsak, an official of the legal drafting committee of the Council of State, represented the panel to defend the civil partnership bill of the government during the debate.
She said the Council of State had held public hearings and presented the results to the government. She said the council feared that the Marriage Equality Bill would lead to legal complications as it would seek to amend the civil code at the same time and it would affect several other existing pieces of law.
Natthanun said the civil partnership bill would have similar enforcement but it would cause much less legal complications than the Marriage Equality Bill.
Tunyawaj, the sponsor of the bill, made a tearful closing speech to the House.
He said his “katoey” condition was not accepted from the time he was young, so he had come to the House to propose the Marriage Equality Bill.
“Why should we move later than others? Are we afraid of progress and changes?” Tunyawaj said.
“I would like to ask the House to accept four drafts and it will become the people’s victory, not a victory of a particular party. We must not be afraid of changes. We must move forward together.”
After the vote was cast, Rangsiman posted on Twitter about being overjoyed that the bill was passed.
“But we have to monitor it during the vetting and the second and third readings [as well as during deliberations by senators],” he posted.
Pheu Thai MP Thassanee Buuranupakorn also posted on Twitter that she had voted for the bill.
“The House accepted it in principle. This was a historic milestone for Thailand to make everyone really equal,” she said.