Today I am proud to call myself a socialist. And I am proud to be gay at a historic intersection of two diverse and compatible movements. Vietnam is now the second socialist country (along with Cuba) to consider same-sex marriage or registered partnerships to ensure the rights of same-sex couples and their family members.
Vietnam's Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong spoke at length on the subject to Gay Star News, saying: "The state should also have legal mechanisms to protect the legitimate rights such as legal personality, property ownership or children (if any) of same-sex couples living together."
He further reiterated support for non-discrimination against gays and lesbians: "It is unacceptable to create social prejudice against the homosexual community."
In the last five years LGBT rights in Vietnam, much like in Cuba, have rapidly advanced, with the government taking a positive interest in the rights and well being of the LGBT community. Specialized programs for HIV/AIDs are in place, and free health care is available for those who are infected.
Vietnam's state run media has taken a special interest in the LGBT community as well in recent years. It wasn't always this way. For many years, like in Cuba, LGBT people were persecuted and ostracized because of their sexual orientation. It was considered a "social evil" alongside drug addiction. However the Vietnamese government as well as the public is starting to make rapid amends for its past mistakes.
Vietnam recently held its first pride parade in the streets of the capital, Hanoi, sponsored by the government. More than 100 demonstrators braved the summer heat and marched from Hanoi's national stadium to a park.
Vietnam would become the first country in Asia as well as the first socialist country to legalize same-sex marriage.
Cuba is considering same-sex marriage. Argentina and parts of Mexico have passed same-sex unions/marriage legislation. Additionally Communist leaders in Nepal have been considering same-sex marriage. In 2008 the Nepalese Supreme Court told the government to implement an earlier ruling granting the LGBT community full and equal rights. At the same time that Vietnam's pride parade was held, hundreds of Nepalese LGBT persons took to the streets urging the government to move forward in implementing the court ruling.
LGBT rights causes are advancing around the world. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Norway. Civil unions or gay partnerships are legal in more than 20 countries.
Photo: Demonstrators Trang Tuyet Nga, left, and Bach Ngoc Lien, right, pose for photos during a gathering of a pride event in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. More than 100 demonstrators rode bicycles and motorbikes through Vietnam's capital to call for equal rights for gays and lesbians in the country's first-ever gay pride parade. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)