Surprisingly, Vietnam Might Legalize Same-Sex Marriage Pretty Soon

Vietnam could, through an interesting confluence of government policy and national journalism, be on track to legalize same-sex marriage, something that would set it apart from other countries in Southeast Asia where the issue, according to the AP, hasn't really been up for debate. The Justice Ministry recently proposed to include same-sex couples in an overhaul of the country's marriage law, and though many remain pessimistic about the same-sex provision sticking around long enough for a National Assembly debate, some herald the proposal itself as evidence of significant progress.

Vietnam remains a socially conservative country, though its communist government has restricted the religious organizations that typically offer the most vociferous objections to same-sex marriage. Thailand, for example, boasts a vibrant lesbian, gay, and transgender community, but it's mostly relegated to the entertainment industry and otherwise separate from the country's socially conservative politics and society. Indonesia and Malaysia, both of which are largely Muslim countries, have strict laws against homosexuality (in Malaysia, sodomy can lead to a 20-year prison sentence). Even though the law isn't widely enforced, homosexuality also remains a crime in Singapore, where a record 15,000 people recently turned out for a nighttime demonstration in support of gay rights.

The state-run media in Vietnam has, by placing restrictions on journalists who voice dissent with the Communist Party or report on politically sensitive topics, created a news vacuum that journalists have started to fill in with longform articles and broadcast news features about gay rights. Vietnam's first publicized gay marriage was televised in 2010 and, since then, other ceremonies have followed, putting the issue front and center in the Vietnamese news stream.

The country will hold its first public gay pride parade in Hanoi on August 5. Between now and next May when the marriage law proposal will be put in front of the National Assembly, the same-sex provision will face a series of pretty rigorous tests — the Justice Ministry will have to consider opinions from the public, as well as from government agencies. Then, in order for it to become law, the majority of parliament will still have to approve it because even nominal representative government is a slow, leaky machine that you have to kick a few times to get it working again. Now, I'm not saying everyone should have a monarch or anything, but, Queen Elizabeth has been on a bit of a roll lately...

Unlikely Vietnam considers same-sex marriage [AP]