Recently, many newspapers and news sites have published the news on “unbanning same-sex marriage”, “allowing gay marriage” or “not prohibiting same-sex marriage” from January 1st 2015. This surprises many people and at the same time confuses others, especially the LGBT community. The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment iSEE would like to provide here some official information on this decision to help readers understand it more thoroughly.

“Fear to Freedom” event held in December 9th, 2013 by iSEE

1. Same-sex marriage is not prohibited by the act any more? 

Yes, in theory. In June 19th, 2014, Vietnam's National Assembly passed the Law on Marriage and Family No. 52/2014 / QH13 (also called LMF 2014), replacing the LMF 2000. In particular, paragraph 5 of Article 10 of the LMF 2000 promulgates that the prohibition on marriage "between people of the same sex" has been removed from the LMF 2014. This results from the social advocacy and discussing process during the last years, leading to the positive acknowledgement of the lawmakers on about marriage and equality rights of homosexuals and same-sex couples.

2. This means that I will be allowed to marry my same-sex lover?

In fact, no. Despite the repeal of the ban on same-sex marriage, LMF 2014 also provides in Article 8 for "Conditions of marriage" that "the State does not recognize marriage between people of the same sex." That is what many people usually call "unblocked, but not recognized." This unrecognization means that same-sex couples will not be able to register the marriage, they will have no marriage certificate, and their cohabitation is not recognized by law and cannot raise any rights and obligations as between the legal spouses.

3. But "not prohibited" means "to be allowed to do"?

Yes, in principle, citizens are allowed to do what the State does not prohibit. However, with the current regulations, the right to same-sex marriage is "unclaimed", and jokingly that is a right to be "hanged, waiting for future planning." In other words, if the right to same-sex marriage previously is "not allowed” to be done, it is now "not able”.

4. So, am I allowed to get married, organize wedding ceremony or cohabit as husband and wife?

Yes. Marriage is the establishment of conjugal relationship at a competent State agency. Marriage is different from organizing wedding ceremony. LMF 2000 or 2014 do not treat forms of wedding, party as legal and recognizable acts. Therefore, same-sex couples have the full right to perform wedding rituals or living together. However, to ensure the rights and obligations while cohabiting, the same-sex couples should use civil agreements such as granting authorities or last wills and testament in order to give your partner the same rights as in legal marriage between heterosexual couples.

5. But why do I have to wait until January 1st 2015?

According to regulations, the laws take effect only after at least 45 days from the date of publication or signing, except for emergencies. Vietnam's National Assembly normally meets every two periods in May and October, so often the law passed in May session will have to wait until January 1st of the following year, and the bill passed in October session will have to wait until July 1st pf the following year to take effect. LMF 2014 was approved on Jun 19th 2014 and is specified to take effect from 01.01.2015.

6. So, eventually, is there anything changed to me?

In terms of practical rights, nothing will be changed. However, in terms of social impact, same-sex marriage is no longer considered as prohibited or harmful act and it needs to be recognized in the future. This represents a change in the conception of the legislators, and it certainly has a positive effect on the society in general. At least, in a civics class, when teaching about marriage, teachers will no longer have to say "same-sex marriage is prohibited by law," and it opens for us hopes and motivation towards the improvement in the future.

Read the FAQ about legal circumstances of LGBT marriage and family here in Vietnamese: