OPINIONS are divided on the Life Partnership Bill, which is holding back some rights for same-sex couples, as the bill enters the final phase before becoming law.
The LGBT community, on one hand, slams the bill for not recognising their rights – now limited to heterosexual couples – to adopt a child, receive a spouse’s public and private welfare, and a deduction from taxes for couples.
“People are celebrating, thinking that LGBT people will eventually be able to get married. But the reality is the legislation does not recognise many of their rights and benefits. [The law] is discriminatory in many areas,” said former National Human Rights commissioner activist Naiyana Supapung.
The draft legislation violates the Constitution and the 2015 Gender Equality Act forbidding laws that limit any right or benefit for a person based on their gender, says Naiyana. To ensure true equality, we must amend the Civil Code to define marriage, as a union of two individuals rather than limit it to a male and a female, she said.
Those charged with drafting the Life Partnership law, argue that Thailand needs to go step by step and make compromises because of the different views on the issue.
A source inside the Justice Ministry, whose department – the Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD) – was charged with drafting the bill, pointed to the beliefs of religious and conservative groups.
Despite strong support from the society at large, people in the Muslim-majority southern provinces are against the bill for religious reasons, and voiced their opposition at a recent public hearing in Hat Yat, Songkhla Province, he said.
Also, people occupying high government positions, as well as legislators in the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) appointed by the junta government, “may still hold conservative views towards this radical change”, he said.
As a result, some rights are excluded. The right for LGBT couples to receive medical welfare if their spouse is a civil servant, for example, are excluded as it may impact the Finance budget and allow ill-intended people to exploit the law, he said.
“It is a challenge. But it is an opportunity for those in the NLA to prove themselves to the society,” he said. The Life Partnership Bill now sits in a long line of 50 bills awaiting consideration and a vote by the Assembly before an election is called and a new government takes office, he said.
The Life Partnership Bill recognises the rights of LGBT couples to jointly manage debts and assets, inherit their spouse’s inheritance, and become a guardian for their spouse. The right to make medical decisions and hold funerals for a spouse were recently added to the bill.
The bill, however, does not recognise the right to adopt a child, receive a spouse’s public and private welfare, or receive the pension, civil-servant medical welfare or spouse-status for income tax deductions, among other omissions.
The NLA has also said it has a backlog of 50 bills to deliberate on, so the new civilpartnership bill may not be passed in the current session, which wraps up on February 15, one week before the general election.