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Monday, February 23, 2015

Lesbian Couple Weds on VietJet Flight

Image source: VietJet Air
This past Valentine's Day, a same-sex couple wed in an inflight ceremony performed aboard a regularly-scheduled VietJet Air (VJ) flight from Tan Son Nhat Airport (SGN) to Bangkok (BKK).

The couple, Tang Ai Linh and Pham Thi Thanh Phuong, approached VJ to conduct the ceremony onboard one of their flights. The airline agreed and arranged to cover not only the cost of the ceremony itself, but also the newlyweds' honeymoon trip to Thailand.

VJ flight attendants stood in as the couple's bridesmaids, and the airline decked out the cabin with flowers and even a cake.

While it may be serving as a publicity stunt by VJ, indicated by the fact that the airline paid for the content to be posted on Thanh Nien News, it's no less significant, given the cultural stance of the generally-conservative Vietnamese population, the majority of which are opposed to same-sex marriage and still consider the subject taboo.

Until recently, same-sex couples were subject to fines if they held a wedding ceremony in Vietnam. However in November of 2013, the Vietnamese government issued a decree removing the fine, and the National Assembly subsequently amended the country's constitution to remove the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

These were significant steps for a country in which the first gay pride parade took place only in 2012, but the rights of same-sex couples still remain short of those in more "traditional" marriages.

The amended Law on Marriage and Family took effect on January 1 of this year, and while the ban on same-sex marriage has been lifted, the law also does not actively recognize those unions, and thus Vietnam does not afford the same legal protections as a heterosexual couple.

Still, LGBT activists in Vietnam laud the progress as stepping stones to an expansion of rights. Others cite the potential growth in LGBT tourism in light of Vietnam's increasing tolerance and acceptance.

Other nearby countries are not so welcoming. While Thailand is seen as the most gay-friendly country in the region, Singapore recently upheld its anti-gay law, while parts of Indonesia punishes homosexuality with 100 days in jail or 100 lashes. The penalty for homosexuality in Brunei is death by stoning.

Even Vietnam has been inconsistent in the LGBT arena. In 2009, the government for the first time officially recognized the first transgendered citizen, only to later revoke that recognition in 2013.

VJ is no stranger to controversy, already having two "bikini" incidents in its short 3-year existence, both leading to public apologies and one incurring a fine from the government.

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