In a blow for those campaigning for same sex marriage, the Constitutional Court has ruled that Section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which only allows for a man and a woman to register their marriage, is not against people’s constitutional rights.
Thailand has historically seen itself as a liberal destination for LGBTQ and has also profited handsomely from tourism revenue that came along with such liberal attitudes. However when it comes to its own internal laws and functions, that same liberalness is not in evidence.
The recent ruling came as a result of the Central Juvenile and Family Court seeking an interpretation as to whether Section 1448 contradicts Sections 25, 26 and 27 of the charter, which guarantees equal civil rights for all citizens
This was cause by gay couple, Phuangphet Hengkham and Pheomsap Sae-ung, seeking to legally wed on February 14 last year. Unsurprisingly the registrar rejected the union, and cited Section 1448 as the reason for not allowing the union to go ahead. Section 1448 stipulates that a marriage can take place only when the man and woman are older than 17. But the court may, in case of having an appropriate reason, allow them to marry even before they are 17.
The couple subsequently petitioned the Central Juvenile and Family Court, seeking to overturn the registrar’s dismissal of their request. As a matter of technical law, the Constitutional Court found no fault with Section 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code going against the people’s constitutional rights, as those rights are currently written. However, what was indeed noteworthy was the observation by the court that parliament, the cabinet and other government organisations should and could draft a law to ensure the rights of all people are equally protected, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Essentially the constitutional court has hand-balled the responsibility for fixing this glaring issue to the powers that be.
If Thailand wants to continue to attract the pink dollar, it will need to align its internal values and laws to those same marketing campaigns that it uses every year to constantly profit off the copious tourism dollars form the LGBTQ community. Or they may come a day when the same community decides to protest these laws via non visitation, or another Asian country may steal the lead and become more attractive in terms of liberalising laws that allow for gay marriage.