An historic victory for LGBTQI+ rights: Thailand to legalize marriage equality

There are moments in history that spark change on a global scale, change that ripples outward and truly makes the world a better place. As I write to you now, I am thrilled to say: this could be one of those moments.

Today, Thailand’s Senate passed a bill to legalize marriage equality — allowing consenting adults to marry whomever they want, regardless of gender or sexuality. And it is with the utmost pride that I tell you: several trailblazing activists that AJWS has supported for years helped to draft the bill that will become law.

Thailand is the first country in Southeast Asia to take this step forward. This is a victory for Thailand’s LGBTQI+ community and a major milestone in the global fight for human rights — one that I hope will reverberate in other countries in the region and around the world. Hua Boonyapisomparn, one of the writers of the bill and the vice president of AJWS partner Foundation of Transgender Alliance for Human Rights, told me she shares my optimism:

“If we can do it, other countries can too. I think Thailand has already set a great example that we can do what seemed to be impossible years ago. We now can say Thailand is a little closer to a safe haven for LGBTQI+ people — which is how many outsiders and tourists have seen Thailand for years.”

This victory is the result of years and years of coordinated advocacy, public education and movement-building.

LGBTQI+ people in Thailand have been fighting for their rights for generations but they’ve felt alone in their struggle — until recently. Something shifted during Thailand’s social and political protests in 2020. The pro-democracy movement was led by young, courageous activists, including many AJWS partners, who believed that the struggles of persecuted minorities and all other Thai citizens were linked. Human rights belong to everyone. When LGBTQI+ activists posted an online petition to collect the signatures necessary to propose a marriage equality bill to parliament, more than 300,000 Thai people showed their support.

This was the momentum the LGBTQI+ movement needed. Hua and other AJWS partners joined with civil society leaders and politicians to draft Thailand’s marriage equality bill, which was debated in parliament in March. Today, that bill passed its final vote — and marriage equality in Thailand is now a reality.

Our LGBTQI+ partners in Thailand tell me the work is far from over. Next, they’ll turn their sights to critical rights like the ability to change their gender identity and more. But I hope you’ll join me in rejoicing today — the world is more just, more equal and more loving than it was yesterday.

Robert Bank
Robert Bank is President and CEO of American Jewish World Service, the leading Jewish organization working to promote human rights in the developing world. Robert has spent his career championing human rights as an attorney, activist and leader. He joined AJWS as Executive Vice President in 2009 and previously served in New York’s municipal government and in the leadership of GMHC—one of the world’s leading organizations combatting HIV/AIDS. Robert has been honored with GMHC’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Partners in Justice Award from AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.