“LGBT people, especially youths – need to know they have allies, friends. Gay, straight, old and young – we must work together to promote acceptance and provide a safe place for LGBT youth,” Consul General Rena Bitter said during an event in Ho Chi Minh City on June 6 according to thanhniennews.com.
“What we have learned in our struggle to eliminate slavery, integrate schools, give women the right to vote, and allow interracial marriage is that what is popular is not always what is right,” Bitter said while speaking at the launch of the LGBT Pride Month at the American Center in HCMC.
“It takes slow, often painful, work by individuals and organizations to encourage dialogue and advocate for change,” she said.
While debates over LGBT rights continue, “Americans can now say with confidence that LGBT rights are human rights,” she said.
Bitter said the US Consulate in HCMC recently issued the first fiancé visa to a same-sex couple in Vietnam.
“I am really proud that the [US] Ambassador [David Bruce] Shear joined the Toi Dong Y campaign in right here in Vietnam,” she said.
Toi Dong Y (or I Do) is a campaign launched by LGBT community in Vietnam to call for social support of the community.
During the LGBT Pride Month, the American Center in Ho Chi Minh City and The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will hold several events, including speaker programs, film screenings, photo shows and a social media campaign.
The ICS Center, an LGBT-based network will coordinate with organizers to raise awareness, advocate and protect the rights of the community.
Last month, the openly gay Ted Osius, a member of the US diplomatic missions in Southeast Asia was nominated to be the next ambassador to Vietnam, according to the US Embassy in Hanoi.
During a session last month, the National Assembly’s Social Affairs Committee proposed removing a ban on marriage between same-sex relations but at the same time stated that Vietnam “does not recognize marriages between people of the same sex.”
This has led various groups being concerned about equality rights in Vietnam as an earlier version of the draft that was introduced to lawmakers past October proposed the government grant same-sex couples the right to shared assets and other rights afforded to heterosexual couples but this was removed from the final draft introduced on May 27.
The bill has been criticized by the Hanoi-based NGO Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment as failing to protect the rights of the LGBT community in Vietnam.
“The bill continues to discriminate against homosexuals and does not protect the children of same-sex couples,” the LGBT rights advocate said in a statement.