Vietnam Ponders Marriage Equality, While Japan Sees Little Movement

Last month, the Obama Administration sent gay activist Mark Bromley to Japan to underscore the President’s message about equality for same-sex couples.

But getting Japan to embrace a diverse definition of family is an uphill battle.

“I doubt it will have much impact on other nations such as Japan, where the will of the people rarely takes priority,” expat David Wagner told the AFP about Obama’s historic announcement in May. Wagner, who’s lived in Japan for 25 years, says while there’s less outright intolerance in Japan, that’s more to do with it being less religious than other countries. “Tolerance has limits in Japan,” he says.

Those limits apply to straight people, too: Under Japanese law, married couples must adopt the same last name, women have to wait for six months after a divorce to remarry, parent must completely give up custody in a divorce, and children born outside of marriage have fewer inheritance rights. “Under the law, marital diversity is largely denied,” says Shuhei Ninomiya, professor of law at Ritsumeikan University.

Meanwhile, Vietnam could soon become the first country in Asia to legally recognize same-sex marriage: The Justice Ministry has proposed adding a marriage-equality measure when it overhauls the nation’s marriage laws.

“I think, as far as human rights are concerned, it’s time for us to look at the reality,” Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong told reporters Tuesday. “The number of homosexuals has mounted to hundreds of thousands. It’s not a small figure. They live together without registering marriage. They may own property. We, of course, have to handle these issues legally.”

It’s not clear what to extent same-sex nuptials would be recognized—whether or not they’d be on par with heterosexual marriages—and the measure would have to be approved in the National Assembly next spring.

Given Vietnam’s dismal record on human rights it seems odd leaders would make such a bold move. But since Vietnam lacks a powerful Christian right-wing movement, gay marriage would be an easy offering to appease critics. In other words, we could be looking at another case of pinkwashing.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how—and if—the subject is raised at Vietnam’s first official gay pride parade in Hanoi on August 5.

Photos: Steve75, Tokyo Rainbow Pride

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  • Flick

    Vietnam has no history of ever having laws against homosexual relations (a rarity worldwide), and southeast Asia with a few exceptions us very tolerant towards the lgbt community. This is wonderful news, although not surprising to me.

  • Hyhybt

    Call it pinkwashing if you like; it’s still a positive development, so far as it goes.

  • Belize

    Oh lord. An Asian LGBT story. Yet another reason for a bunch of overtly patriotic Western queens to spill their laughable second hand knowledge on the Asian LGBT community, HIV, AIDS and Asian politics care of sailors and CNN streamers. Allow me to laugh in advance.

  • Mr. Z

    @Belize: Are you an ESL student? There’s always something a bit off about your English …


    @Mr. Z: Mr.Z talking about English! you fucking America, you cannot even spell right.


    @Belize: Yoiu are sweet and cool Belize xoxoxo.

  • Brandon

    The Orientals are not my cup of tea, but they are great with laundry, certain foreign dishes, and math.

  • Mr. Z

    @KARUADAM: That wasn’t meant to be a put-down; I was just wondering. Belize’s English simply happens to be somewhat … awkward at times.

  • Chuck

    @Brandon: And Caucasians are great with getting obese, being intolerant religious bigots, and… well… that’s about it.

  • Jeremy

    As a Vietnamese, I’m quite surprised to see such bold and democratic action from the government toward the LGBT community. True, Vietnamese are not exactly hostile toward gay people. That’s the perk of being a (mostly) Buddhist country- there is no gay bashing or whipping for being gay. But like China, Japan or Korea, we are also built in a very strong foundation of Confucianism, where family is the biggest pressure. A lot of Vietnamese parents think: “yeah, I’m okay with gay people, as long as he/she is not my child.” Many parents still send kids to asylum even though the hospitals tried to convince them that “being is not sickness”. Just say hypothetically the deal is through, marry someone who is not an opposite sex of yours mean a cut from all family’s relationship you had. And I don’t think many of us are ready to do so.

    @Brandon: It’s nearly impossible to go to a post about gay Asians without seeing a ridiculously racist and stupid comment like yours.

  • Prof. O.G. Whataschnozelle

    @KARUADAM: You might want to double check your grammar before you hit the submit button.

    For those of you who have not really thought about orientals in bed let me tell you that Thailand has some of the most beautiful, natural bubble-butt boys born in Asia. I have had more than my share of Asian booty and welcome the Vietnamese response to marriage with the hope Thailand will follow.

    Many of you are shouting “I am a lonely-ass queen with nothing to do with my life but troll the internet and spew venom at what I think I hate”. I can hear it in your comments. Check your tones people. Diversity makes the world go round. Regardless of whether one is sexually turned on or not by the people of that culture there is much more to a culture than sex.

    I laugh at bigots knowing that within their own culture they do not feel that they belong. If the entire world turned gay and populated with no one else but their own racial/cultural kind they would still have a problem.

    Please step out of the ancient, urine filled floors of the twnety-five cents video arcade booths and go have a cup of Starbucks coffee instead. And enjoy the surroundings while your at it (cruising Asians perhaps?).

  • smithsmith30

    “Orientals?” Really, dudes?

  • F Stratford

    @Mr. Z: And you don’t know how to use semicolons. Did you go to college?

  • dee-dee

    @Brandon: I bet you love Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s

  • Rooney

    @dee-dee: Man, this is awkward.

  • bud

    @smithsmith30: I know, right? Who says orientals anymore? oriental is a rug


    It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return … it is something that should be celebrated! If it is between two guys or girls all the better. It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!


    Being black, left-handed or being gay is just as natural. Bibles and the torah which includes leviticus 18:22 should be immediately banned for promoting hatred against minorities; namely the gay community and the crosses removed from all schools and churches.

    The evil writings in Leviticus 18:22 against gays depict; rules for temple rituals or “P” … Priestly Rules & expanded by the pope; homophobes and religious frauds to attack the gay community and never meant to apply to the public but to priests. Leviticus exists in the old testament & torah.

    “It is written; so therefore it shall be? We are the chosen people? Such a wicked fantasy.” To see the religious lunatics manipulate government and our lives is shameful.

  • John

    this proposal is followed by the release of a number one box office receipt and gay movie in VN last year called “hot boy noi loan”. This movie was well received by many international film festivals and you can watch it on youtube with English subtitle…

  • streeteditions

    The fact that countries like South Africa and perhaps now, Malawi, include sexual orientation in their constitution gives me hope that when countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and even Egypt can consider equality, not specious tolerance, maybe just one day, my queer in spirit grandchildren will live on a queer planet. Just hoping!

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