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Thailand takes step towards same-sex marriage with parliament vote

Thailand took a step towards marriage equality on Wednesday as lawmakers gave initial approval to legalizing same-sex unions, sparking celebrations outside the parliament building.

It’s a significant landmark in a predominantly Buddhist country with a highly visible LGBTQ community but whose members still face major barriers and discrimination.

Legislation must clear several other hurdles before it becomes law. If successful, Thailand would be the first country in Southeast Asia to recognize same-sex unions.

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The lower house approved two bills that would allow same-sex marriages and two others that would allow civil partnerships.

A committee of lawmakers will now review the bills in detail and bundle them into two proposals, to give MPs a choice between supporting civil partnerships and full same-sex marriage.

After the vote, a small group of enthusiastic campaigners celebrated loudly outside parliament, crying, hugging and waving rainbow flags.

“I am very happy and content, it is a good sign in this month of pride that there are MPs who want equality and vote for the bills,” LGBTQ activist Nada told AFP. Chaiyajit.

“But there is a long way to go.”

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Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the opposition party Move Forward, which proposed one of the same-sex marriage bills, said the vote should give people hope.

“Today is a response that politics is possible here in Thailand,” Pita told activists celebrating outside parliament.

“No matter who you are, there is a place for you in this country.”

Demands for marriage equality were a theme at Bangkok’s Pride Parade earlier this month, the first such event in the Thai capital in nearly 16 years.

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Ryan Figueiredo, executive director of LGBT rights campaign group Equal Asia Foundation, welcomed the vote but warned “there is a lot of work to be done on the ground to move public opinion and talk to parliamentarians”.

Figueiredo also urged the Thai parliament to support the full marriage.

“Civil partnerships are not equal to marriage equality, it creates a whole different class of people,” he told AFP.

“Civil partnerships seem like a consolation prize.”

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