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Vote on same-sex marriage in Vietnam likely to be delayed until 2014

Human rights advocate tells Gay Star News vote is likely to be delayed, but says this is good news for building support
Le Quang Binh, director of Vietnamese minorities' rights advocate organization, iSEE

A vote by the National Assembly (the government) of Vietnam on legalizing same-sex marriage will likely be delayed until 2014.

After starting consultations with relevant departments last summer, same-sex marriage was due to be voted on at the 2013 National Assembly in May, but now a human rights advocate who works with the government has told Gay Star News the vote will probably be delayed for one year.

'It's not official yet but I learned that the Ministry of Justice requested that the National Assembly to postpone the submission of the law for one year,' said Le Quang Binh director of the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) who advocates for minorities' rights in Vietnam.

iSEE has worked with the government on their same-sex marriage consultations, which have included presentations from international experts from the US and the Netherlands, LGBT people themselves and PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Vietnam.

Le said an extra year would be helpful for gathering support for the issue among the delegates of the National Assembly.

'I think it's not a bad thing to delay for one year,' Le said. 'We actually think it may be good because then we have more time to work with the national assembly and educate the population.'

Le said that he has seen positive signs that same-sex marriage will be supported by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health and the National Assembly's Social Affairs Committee who would appraise the law.

'But when the law is submitted to the National Assembly it might be a different story,' he said. 'We have 500 delegates and they come from all over the country.'

Lee said that at a recent meeting in Hue, a small city of 300,000 in central Vietnam, there were dozens of National Assembly delegates who had little understanding of the issues around LGBT rights.

'Many asked questions like: "I've never met any gays or lesbians so why do you think this is an important issue?" There's a lot of work to do with them,' said Le.

Same-sex marriage is being examined by the Vietnamese government along with seven other areas affecting marriage and family law, including surrogacy, separation, de facto marriage.

Vietnam's one-party state surprised the world by starting to consult on same-sex marriage last summer. Even with the delay, the country is far more progressive than other Asian nations as it the only place where the government is seriously considering legalizing same-sex marriage.

Earlier this month neighboring Thailand started to hold public hearings into bringing in civil unions for same-sex couples.

In Taiwan there's strong public support for same-sex marriage and opposition leader Su Tseng-Chang has said he supports it, but no laws on the matter are likely to be passed while the conservative President Ma Ying-jeou is in power. The next presidential election is not until 2016.

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