Last week, the United States Supreme Court ruled to strike down the 17-year-old so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” finally legitimizing full federal recognition of legally married gay couples there. The ruling, the Washington Post noted, means that same-sex marriage is now sanctioned in 13 states and the District of Columbia — a list representing more than a third of the population of the United States.

Vietnam has gone through its own sea change regarding sexual freedom in recent years, with increasingly open calls by LGBT persons and supporters for less discrimination and for full marriage equality — long a taboo in this strictly traditional Confucian society, where divorce is still anathema and daughters often have little say in when or whom they marry. Yet the nation’s National Assembly was openly debating the possibility of legislating marriage equality less than two weeks ago. So reaction to the news of the Supreme Court ruling here was instantaneous and vocal, surging across the gamut of social media platforms in a verbal tsunami of celebration and hope — as well as pockets of dissent and debate.

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Participants at a gay pride parade gather in Hanoi last year (Photo: AP)

On Twitter,  user @hohuuhuy14h high-fived the SCOTUS ruling:#DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.” FUCK YES!!!”

A high-traffic Facebook Page entitled “Tôi không kì thị người đồng tính” (“I Don’t Discriminate Against Homosexuals”), which boasts 31,000 likes, saw a surge of celebratory posts this week. Typical was one from user Zoe Tran, who wrote:

“A small note for those who don’t know, from now on LGBT couples whose lover is an American resident will have the full rights to get married and can guarantee for each other just like normal couples. LGBT couples will get all the rights of married couples due to American laws, and are equal to straight couples. It means you should celebrate that. Who gets rejection from parents can talk about this to them, and hopefully they will accept, trust me. Because it means that your relationship will have potential future for everyone. Think about it. Congratz guys and gals.”

GấuTồ Thíchđu Dâyđiện wrote: “Today is a happy and historical day not only for America but also for LGBT in the world. However, the war is not ended yet. There are still other states and countries haven’t accept same-sex marriage and consider homosexuality as crime. We still have to fight for a bright future for LGBT.”

Jin Yao observed, “The US is a modern country but it still takes many years to reach this, while Vietnam is still a traditional country, how long will it take to get that day?”

Google’s tacit support of the ruling (as seen in the search easter egg that immediately followed the ruling) seemed to make a deep impression on many Vietnamese netizens.

At a kenh14.vn post about the easter egg, user ruamango composed a poem:

“I don’t have to be a tree to protect the forest;

I don’t have to be an animal to protect the wild ones;

I don’t have to be gay to protect LGBT rights and same-sex marriage;

I protect the right  things.”

User mong linh disagreed, “There should be no same-sex marriage. Before, there were no homosexual cases like this. Why, in modern time, people homosexualize in a second?”

User KnightShade VH replied, “Many people keep asking why there are so many homosexual people recently. In fact, this is not just now there are many homosexual people. This is only because before, they didn’t raise their voice, they just kept living in silence. Now, because the society is open, they are more comfortable with coming out. So please be open with society because they are human like us. Nothing more.”

Hoàng Trường Sa “Before, I extremely hated homosexual people, but for now my thoughts have changed. Why? It is because heterosexual people like me usually imposed on the natural characteristics of homosexuals, just like drawing up beards on a woman’s face. That is a mistake!

“I think homosexual people have the same rights as heterosexuals, simply because they are human. I encourage other conservative straight people to change their archaic thinking. If we do not like someone putting force on us in  romance or sex, why are we force someone to live against their will?  Life would be better and easier if we break down the barriers of ideological nonsense.”

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In May, Vietnamese youth wore wedding costumes and attended a parade to show their support on same-sex marriage in Hanoi.

On a Voice of America Vietnamese news article about the ruling, a typical Vietnamese debate about the legitimacy of homosexuality surged. One anonymous commenter wrote, “It is unnatural. Show me any species that has male marries males, or females marries female. Even the plants…Sins are increasing when the same-sex marriage law is passed, because it goes against the bible.”

Another anonymous poster replied, “Isn’t your clergyman call upon the practices of his religion as the marriage with the church and Catholic? But then people still divorce. So what is the forever combination? Educated people, who are trained at famous universities in the world are different from you. They have real knowledge, which are confirmed internationally. And you are only the pen waiter for the Party.”

At hugely popular discussion forum Webtretho, member Cheetahfast wrote, “Marriage basically is a civil legal contract between 2 people. Thus, legalizing same-sex marriage is a must-do thing. Vietnam should be open to help homosexual people out of suffering.”

Patrick Sharbaugh