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Valentine's Day

Same-sex couples call for marriage rights

Valentine's Day yesterday saw lovebirds register their unions at district offices, especially those with "lucky" names such as Bangkok's Bang Rak ("Village of Love"). Same-sex couples who showed up only to be turned down, as such unions aren't recognised by Thai law, called for legal amendments to allow gay marriage.

For the 2,666 couples married in Bangkok on Valentine's Day last year, Bang Rak district was the most popular location, with 903 couples - compared to a normal daily rate of 30 pairs. Bang Rak yesterday continued its tradition of offering special treats for the occasion, handing out 12 "gold" marriage certificates, each worth Bt9,000, and other prizes via lucky draws. Office director Seuchana Sudcharoen expected to wed 1,000 couples by the day's end. The first couple to win a "gold" certificate plus a Bt1-million life-insurance policy was Pol Captain Chukiat Jongsomboon, 35, and Janthima Thidawan, 21, who have a son.

Among the couples seeking a legal union was same-sex couple Pallawee Jongtangsatchatham, 32, and Rungthiwa Kankanopas, 47, who have been together for nine years. But the couple was turned down by officials, who said the law doesn't allow for such matrimony.

Rungthiwa told The Nation, "[I] prepared my mind [to be denied] the right. But I could never prepare my heart to accept it." Rungthiwa said she wanted the same legal right to leave her inheritance to her spouse as any other husband or wife. They said they would ask Parliament and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to amend the law to allow same-sex marriage.

Sexual Diversity Network members were also at the event venue, the CAT Telecom building, to call for legalisation of same-sex marriage, so as not to deny them important legal rights such as family health insurance and inheritance rights. Anjaree Foundation founder Anjana Suvarnnanond said many same-sex couples took care of each other and lived together for life, but their unions weren't recognised by law.

"We have to keep providing information to the public," said Chumaporn Tangkliang, a key member of the network, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The House of Representatives is considering a draft bill to recognise legal rights for same-sex couples, but Chumaporn said there were details that the network disagreed with, such as the need to have a psychological examination before a couple is allowed to marry.

As the media continue to portray LGBT people as abnormal, Chumaporn said, the issue needs to be confronted and rectified.

In the evening, Bang Rak district announced that 548 couples had registered their marriage.

In Chiang Mai's Muang district office, three same-sex couples, led by the M-Plus Chiang Mai Foundation, sought marriage, but officials said they could only file a marriage request, pending changes in the law. The foundation also submitted a statement to Deputy Governor Adisorn Kamnerdsiri calling for equal marriage rights.

Elsewhere, couples wed at places commonly associated with happy unions. Uttaradit's Laplae district office is popular because legend has it that the ancient city of Laplae prohibited lies, and couples who marry there wish for unions free of secrets and deception.

In Surat Thani's Punpin district, Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban's son Thae Thaugsuban and wife Thichakorn Kanchanakaew were among nine couples married at a ceremony hosted by the province's railway authority.


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