In Asia where no country legally allows marriage between same sex couples, three men in Thailand have ratcheted up the cause for marriage equality by tying the knot in what is thought to be the world's first three-way same-sex marriage.
Joke, 29, Bell, 21 and Art, 26, exchanged vows during a traditional-style water pouring marriage ceremony with an exchange of vows on Valentine's Day at their home in Uthai Thani Province, north-eastern Thailand.
The three, known only by their nick names that Thai people mostly use, described the day of the wedding as the “happiest of their lives.”
Photographs of the event that they posted on social media have since gone viral. One Facebook post received more than 50,000 Likes and had more than 1,000 comments.
The photos showed the trio in Thai and western wedding attire. They were captioned: “Pure love cannot be seen by your eyes. If you want to know what its worth you have to see it with your heart.”
“Some people may not agree and are probably amazed by our decision, but we believe many people do understand and accept our choice. Love is love, after all,” Bell was quoted as saying by media that reported the event. “I think we are the first three-way same-sex males to have a wedding – possibly in the world,” Bell said.
Art and Joke first met in 2010 while working together and began dating. They then met Bell and soon realised they all had feelings for each other. Their relationship was cemented after Bell was hospitalised with a congenital disease. “We thought what better way to show our love for each other (than) by getting married,” Art said.
The marriage is largely symbolic as Thai laws do not recognize same-sex marriage or civil partnership. Nonetheless many Thai gays and lesbians publicly marry their partners and live as couples.
“Now Thai society has a better understanding of sexual orientation as many same-sex weddings appear on TV, newspapers and social media, we feel more accepted and able to come out,” Joke said.
Recent moves to draft a same-sex marriage law received much bipartisan support before it was unfortunately side-lined more because of the on-going political crisis than any serious social opposition to same-sex couples marrying.
A bill in parliament for acknowledging marriage equality was stuck because of the prolonged fluid situation of current Thai politics which saw parliament’s dissolution, a general election that was nullified and a civilian government removed by a military coup.
Thailand is a relative haven of legal tolerance for the LGBT community in a region where surrounding countries such as Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore criminalize same-sex relations with fines, imprisonment and social censure.