Thailand could become the first country in Asia to officially recognise same-sex unions.
Thailand’s government is set to legalise same-sex civil partnerships by the end of 2018, according to local media reports.
The bill will be discussed in public hearings between November 12 and 16. It is expected to be presented to the cabinet by the end of the month.
If approved, same-sex civil partnerships could become law by the end of this year, reports Bangkok Post.
Homosexuality has been legal in Thailand since 1956.
The landmark move would make Thailand the first country in Asia to officially recognise same-sex couples.
Last year, the highest court in Taiwan stated that restricting unions to heterosexual couples was unconstitutional, and ruled that same-sex marriage would automatically pass into law in May 2019 if parliament doesn’t legalise it before then.
Taiwan citizens will vote on five LGBT+ proposals in a referendum on November 24, including whether they want same-sex marriage to be enshrined into law.
However, the vote has been met with concern from LGBT+ activists, who fear that couples could end up with a “discriminatory” form of union rather than the right to marry.
Jennifer Lu, coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told Reuters: “As Taiwanese, we feel sorry but we don’t have time and room for disappointment.”
The referendum announced by the Central Election Commission could throw a roadblock in the way of reforms by creating a new segregated form of legal union for same-sex couples, and reserving the existing marriage law for “a man and a woman.”
It comes after months of pressure from anti-LGBT groups, who amassed hundreds of thousands of signatures opposing the direct introduction of same-sex marriage through the Civil Code.
The campaign against equal marriage was led by the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, which has stirred anti-LGBT sentiment in the country.
Their proposed referendum would “strictly define [marriage] as between a man and a woman.”
The Taipei Times reports that a separate question mooted by the group seeks to ban mentions of homosexuality in schools.
The group claims the issues “entirely affect Taiwan’s moral principles and family values.”
In other Asian countries, some cities recognise same-sex unions.
In Japan, eight municipal jurisdictions, including Fukuoka and Osaka, recognise civil partnerships.