Though Vietnamese citizens do not enjoy freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, or freedom of religion, they may soon exercise a right that would make them unique amongst Asian countries: the right to marry their same-sex partner.
Roundly criticized by western groups for its shoddy stance on human rights, Vietnam actually shows a surprisingly progressive streak when it comes to gay rights. Unlike most of its neighbors, Vietnam has never had any legal injunction against same-sex relationships.
Though the law does restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples, Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong announced that the government is considering changing that, and the legislature are presently considering a bill that would remove the language banning same-sex marriages (though still not explicitly allowing them).
Only thirty-seven percent of Vietnamese citizens support such a move, but the largely dictatorial government is capable of simply ignoring public opinion.
Over the weekend a pro-marriage equality group, Toi Dong Y (the name roughly translates to “I do”), staged a pair of ceremonies with two gay couples, one male and one female, in Hanoi to encourage the government to go ahead with the plan. The government just recently rescinded mandates that would have leveled a fine against such public (though non-binding) marriage demonstrations.
Toi Dong Y’s Facebook page garnered 50,000 “Likes” in its first two weeks (though it’s impossible to confirm how many of those were from Vietnamese users) and an additional 6,000 since then. Reporting on the rally, Voice of America cited hundreds of attendees and quoted organizer Le Quang Binh expressing confidence that marriage equality would come to Vietnam. “Politicians are human beings. They need time to understand,” Binh told VOA.
The Toi Don Y page states the group’s mandate: “Everyone should be free to live honestly. Everyone deserves to be happy. Marriage for all, regardless of gender.” Supporters can express their views by adopting simple slogans and images to their online profiles.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice have both endorsed the pending legislation, but it is not yet clear when a final vote may be held.