Legislator says Vietnam should recognize same-sex marriages

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Participants pose during a local annual gay pride parade in Hanoi on August 4, 2013. PHOTO: AFP

Vietnam should raise the bar and formally recognize same-sex marriages, rather than merely lifting the ban on such unions, says one local lawmaker.

In a meeting Tuesday to collect opinions from the National Assembly's Standing Committee about the draft amendment to the 2000 Marriage and Family Law, Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong said the current ban on same-sex marriages will be replaced by a provision that the government will simply refuse to recognize such marriages.

The National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, is expected to debate and vote on the draft amendment to the Marriage and Family Law this October.

"The government thinks that the law can disapprove of homosexual marriages but not intervene in [homosexuals'] rights to live with their chosen partners or abide by their sexual orientation," said Cuong.

"It is necessary to respect their rights of cohabitation, as well as agreements they may make regarding their personal lives."

He said same-sex marriage is a sensitive issue, so its recognition should be considered and carried out carefully.

The chairman of the National Assembly Law Committee Phan Trung Ly, however, called the draft amendment to the current marriage law "incomplete."

"I think we should recognize same-sex marriages, rather than just removing the ban on them," Ly said, adding, "The law must be precise, and mustn't include a partial provision like this."

Vietnam's Marriage and Family Law established in 2000 banned same-sex marriages. A decree effective since 2001 says that homosexual couples who get married may be fined VND100,000-500,000 (US$ 4.70-23.50). 

Last February the Ministry of Justice proposed a draft decree that would double the fine.

The draft was due to take effect July 1, but was scrapped in April amid public criticism which called for the fines to be eliminated and same-sex marriage to be legalized.

At a July 26 press conference, Duong Dang Hue, director of the Civil and Economic Department under Ministry of Justice said the formal recognition of same-sex marriages would contradict traditional Vietnamese culture.

The Netherlands became the first nation in the world to legalize gay marriage in 2001. Since then, such marriages have become legal in 14 countries on four continents and in parts of Mexico and the US. England and Wales will allow them starting next year.

So far, no Asian countries recognize such unions.

Statistics released in May by the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment (iSEE), a nonprofit organization working for the rights of minority groups, showed Vietnam has approximately 1.65 million people who identify as LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender).

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