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Thailand on Tuesday became the first country in Southeast Asia to adopt equal marriage, in a historic vote in the Senate celebrated as a “victory” by the LGBT+ community.

Some 130 senators voted in favor of the text (4 against, 18 abstentions), which will be presented to King Maha Vajiralongkorn for publication in the royal gazette, synonymous with promulgation.

“Today, love won over prejudice,” responded activist Plaifah Kyoka Shodladd, who took part in the work to develop the law.

Marks of celebration were contained to the chamber, but festivities are planned for later in the day, at the government palace and in central Bangkok.

Before the vote, Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, MP for the pro-democracy Move Forward party, hailed “a victory for the people”, which brings back “smiles”, in a period of political turbulence.

Marriage for all sparks a rare consensus, in a kingdom divided between the conservative bloc favorable to the army and the king, and the progressive opposition supported by the younger generations.

After the deputies gave the green light in March by a large majority, the outcome of the senators' vote caused little suspense.

The LGBT+ community enjoys wide visibility in the Buddhist kingdom, known for its tolerance which attracts gay tourists from conservative neighboring countries.

Since the Netherlands, the first country to celebrate homosexual unions in 2001, more than thirty states have legalized marriage for all around the world. In Asia, only Taiwan and Nepal have taken the plunge.

In Thailand, the first marriages can be celebrated in the kingdom 120 days after the promulgation of the law, that is to say in the fall.

“We're doing this for everyone. If society gives rights to everyone, then it's a society we can live in,” said Adisorn Juntrasook, who took part in the drafting of the law, as as an expert, before the vote.

– Consensus –
The new legislation aims to change references to “men”, “women”, “husbands” and “wives” to non-gendered terms, in this case “individuals” and “marriage partners”.

It must also give homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in matters of adoption or inheritance.

But activists deplore the lack of recognition of transgender or non-binary people, who will still not have the right to change their gender on their identity documents.

The coming to power last summer of Srettha Thavisin, the first civilian to serve as prime minister since the 2014 coup, helped speed up Thailand's usually tortuous legislative process.

The chronic instability of Thai political life, between coups d'état and major popular protests, had overcome previous attempts at legalization in recent years.

Despite the unity displayed in the Senate, Thailand is going through a period of uncertainty, due to proceedings in the Constitutional Court targeting Srettha Thavisin and Move Forward, the two main political advocates of equal marriage.

Move Forward risks dissolution, and its leaders a ban from political life for several years, for having promised to reform the lèse-majesté law during the 2023 legislative campaign. A sanction which, if it materializes, would mark a step backwards of democracy, human rights groups fear.

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