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Thousands Celebrate Pride in Bangkok With Historic Marriage Equality Law on the Horizon

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Thousands of people flocked to the streets of Thailand’s capital Bangkok on Saturday to mark Pride Month, the first to be celebrated with a sense that legal marriage equality for same-sex couples in the country is near, as lawmakers inch closer toward the expected passage of a bill that would codify marriage as between two individuals rather than a man and a woman.

The parade, with the theme “Celebration of Love” covered some 1.5 km of roads in the city’s commercial district. The Governor of Bangkok, multinational companies, and advocacy groups were among those to participate, though the rally sprung to life from concerts on trucks, strutting drag queens, and the occasional band of drummers. Some marchers carried a poster of a marriage certificate that read, “This marriage certificate shows that all genders can marry.” Others hoisted a giant rainbow flag while coursing through Bangkok’s busy roads.

Bangkok resident and parade attendee Karin Chai, 47, said this year’s event feels more serious than its previous iterations. “We have been cooperating with the Bangkok community,” Karin says. “The government sector realized that the LGBT community is also one of the communities that we should be understanding.”

Naruemit Pride—who has organized the celebrations since 2022—earlier told TIME that the focus of the event was on the passage of marriage equality, as the movement in Thailand has been ongoing for more than a decade.

Bangkok Pride Parade 2024 To Celebrate Pride Month.
People carry a large rainbow-colored flag as they take part in the LGBTQ+ parade to mark the Pride Month celebrations in Bangkok, Thailand, on June 1, 2024. Anusak Laowilas—Getty Images

Waddao Ann Chumaporn, president and founder of Naruemit Pride, said in a press release shared ahead of the event that this year is important for the LGBTQ+ community specifically because of the bill’s looming passage. “Naruemit Pride therefore organized the Bangkok Pride Festival 2024 as an event to celebrate this success too, and as a countdown to the official implementation of the equal marriage law,” she said.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin led the march, wearing a rainbow-colored shirt. He was joined by Pheu Thai Party leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra. Srettha is the first Thai premier to join the Bangkok Pride Parade. Since taking office in August 2023, Srettha has made marriage equality a priority issue for the administration to resolve.

“Thailand will continue to support gender diversity after successfully passing the marriage equality bill,” Srettha said at the start of the parade. “We are looking forward to pushing for gender recognition and sex worker laws.”

Bangkok Pride Ceremony 2024
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin participates in the opening ceremony of Bangkok Pride 2024.Matt Hunt—Getty Images

A 23-year-old investment banker, who wished to identify as “Maew Chol,” said she is excited about the expected passage of the marriage equality bill. “Now it’ll officially state that Thailand, Thai people, and Thai legality support true love,” Maew tells TIME.

The Bangkok Pride parade was held months after the lower house of Thailand’s parliament overwhelmingly voted to amend the country’s Civil and Commercial Code and effectively allow same-sex marriage. The Senate is currently deliberating on the amending bill, and if they approve it, the bill will be sent over to the King for royal endorsement.

Though the new session of parliament was expected to open in July, advocacy group Fortify Rights announced earlier this week that the Senate is set to hold an ad-hoc session on June 18 to vote on the bill.

If passed, Thailand will be the third country in Asia—and the first among Southeast Asian nations—with marriage equality, following Taiwan in 2019 and Nepal in 2023. The law will recognize marriage registrations of same-sex partners aged 18 and up, as well as their rights to inheritance, tax allowances, and child adoption.

Despite its reputation as a vibrant Asian hub for the LGBT community, Thailand still lacks many legal protections for people of varying sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. The country’s parliament in March rejected a draft law on gender recognition, which would have allowed transgender and non-binary Thais to change their legal gender markers.

But Maew believes the marriage equality bill’s passage is a significant change in Thailand: “We are moving forward. That’s a huge step.”

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