Integrity Legal

27th January 2014

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that Vietnam has legalized same sex wedding ceremonies performed in that Southeast Asian nation. Prior to this announcement it was illegal for same sex couples to have a marriage ceremony performed in Vietnam and also illegal for same sex couples to cohabit without fear of government reprisal. It should be noted that these recent measures only allow same sex couples to have a marriage ceremony, notwithstanding the fact that such ceremonies will have no legal recognition in Vietnam (or elsewhere). However, many LGBT rights activists believe that this is a significant step towards eventual marriage equality in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Thailand the struggle still continues to see the full marriage equality. Unlike Vietnam, Thailand has allowed same sex marriage ceremonies within their jurisdiction for some time. It should also be noted that Thailand is one of the most tolerant nations in Southeast Asia when it comes to LGBT issues. However, the law in Thailand still stipulates that a legally recognized marriage is a union between one man and one woman. There are many activists in the Kingdom hoping to change these rules in order to allow same sex couples the right to get married. With recent political turmoil in the Kingdom and uncertainty surrounding upcoming elections it remains to be seen whether any change to the current law will speedily occur, but some believe that the tolerant attitude in Thailand will lead to changes in the law especially in light of the fact that recent proposals in the Thai parliament would, if adopted, allow same sex couples to legalize their marriages.

The issue of same sex marriage legalization is of concern to many same-sex bi-national couples since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision granting federal recognition of same sex unions. One result of this decision was that same sex couples and spouses are now eligible to receive United States visa benefits in the same manner as different sex couples. Therefore, visas such as the CR-1 visa and IR-1 visa are now available to same sex couples who are already married. Although this may not be a highly sought after category in Southeast Asia at this time as no jurisdiction in the region currently recognizes same sex marriage, it could be of substantial importance in coming years as laws may be amended to equalize marriage laws for the LGBT community. Meanwhile, officials at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) as well as the Department of State have noted that same sex couples, where one of the partners is American, who maintain a bona fide intention to marry in the USA may be eligible for the K-1 visa (more commonly referred to as a fiance visa). This type of visa allows the foreign fiance of an American citizen to travel to the United States for 90 days for the express purpose of getting married and filing for adjustment of status to Lawful Permanent Residence.


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