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Harris meets with Vietnamese LGBTQ activists

Two LGBTQ activists were among those who participated in a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris that took place in Hanoi, Vietnam



Vice-President Kamala Harris (U.S. Government Photo)

HANOI, Vietnam — Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday met with two Vietnamese LGBTQ rights activists.

Harris’ office said Chu Thanh Hà Ngoc, a transgender activist, and Đoàn Thanh Tùng, an LGBTQ advocate, participated in a “roundtable discussion with the vice president and Vietnamese social advocacy organizations” that took place at the U.S. Chief of Mission’s home in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital.

“It is critical that if we are to take on the challenges we face that we do it in a way that is collaborative, that we must empower leaders in every sector, including of course government but community leaders, business leaders, civic society if we are to maximize the resources we collectively have,” said Harris. 

Harris specifically noted the Vietnamese Health Ministry “helped craft the draft — and draft — the (country’s) transgender rights law” that took effect in 2017.

“Transgender people deserve and need equal access to healthcare services,” she said. “This is an issue that we still face in the United States, and it is an issue here in Vietnam, I know.  And we will work together and support you and the work you are doing in that regard.”

Ann Marie Yastishock, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s mission director in Vietnam, moderated the roundtable.

It took place on the last day of Harris’ trip to Southeast Asia that began on Sunday in Singapore, one of the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. The trip also coincided with growing calls for the U.S. to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans from Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country.

Ted Osius, who co-founded GLIFAA, an association of LGBTQ employees of Foreign Service agencies, was the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam from 2014-2017. The late-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2015 presided over the Hanoi ceremony during which Osius and his husband, Clayton Bond, renewed their wedding vows.

President Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

Visibles Executive Director Daniel Villatoro and Ingrid Gamboa of the Association of Garifuna Women Living with HIV/AIDS were among the members of Guatemalan civil society who participated in a roundtable with Harris in June when she was in Guatemala City. USAID Administrator Samantha Power also met with LGBTQ activists in Guatemala and El Salvador when she was in the countries at around the same time.

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Activists in Taiwan say same-sex adoption law “needs updating”

LGBTQ+ activists in the country called on the government to extend adoption equality to all same-sex couples



Photo courtesy of the Taiwan Equality Campaign 彩虹平權大平台

TAIPEI – Weeks after a historic ruling in Taiwan allowing a married gay man to adopt the non-biological child of his husband, LGBTQ+ activists in the country called on the government to extend adoption equality to all same-sex couples.

The family court’s historic Dec. 25 ruling, made public last week, found that it was in the best interest of Wang Chen-wei’s (王振圍) adopted child, nicknamed “Joujou,” for his husband Chen Chun-ju (陳俊儒) to become a legal guardian, as well. 

It marked the first time in Taiwan that a same-sex couple has been allowed to adopt a child that didn’t have a biological relationship with either person.

The couple fought for Chen to be able to adopt Joujou for over two years. 

“Finally, the issue of Joujou’s parental rights has come to an end,” Wang said in a Facebook post, according to the Taipei Times.

However, Wang did note that the court’s decision does not set a general precedent for all same-sex couples in the country. 

“We will continue to fight. The key is having the law revised,” Wang wrote. “If our family wants to adopt another child, will we have to go through the same process again and gamble on which judicial affairs officer we get? Or will the law have been amended so it won’t be so hard for everybody?”

Same-sex marriage is legal in Taiwan, but LGBTQ+ couples still face other restrictions that opposite-sex couples do not. 

The Act for Implementation of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748 (司法院釋字第七四八號解釋施行法), which legalized same-sex marriage in the country, does carve out rights for adoption if that child has a biological relation to one of the parents. But the law makes no mention of cases where the child has no biological ties to either partner. 

“It’s really absurd that same-sex people can adopt a child when they are single but they can’t after they get married,” Wang told the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

According to the Taipei Times, the court decided that the law doesn’t explicitly “prohibit the adoption of adopted children,” and that it would be “inappropriate to give a negative or discriminatory interpretation of the provision.”

Activist Jennifer Lu, the executive director for the Taiwan Equality Campaign, said the ruling was “a ray of hope,” but added that Taiwan’s courts are inconsistent on the matter. 

“We hope the rulings serve as a reminder to government officials and lawmakers that the current unfair legal conditions need to be changed,” she said. 

According to Lu, the group has received over 500 requests from same-sex families interested in adopting non-biological children.

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South Korean Gay couple denied health care benefits in court

“The union of a man & woman is still considered the fundamental element of marriage according to civil law & precedents of the Supreme Court”



Emergency Medical Center of the National Medical Center, Seoul, South Korea (Photo by Park Yong Joo)

SEOUL – A court in South Korea rejected a lawsuit brought by a gay couple attempting to gain equal access to health care benefits Friday – a ruling that advocates say highlights the struggles of LGBTQ+ people trying to gain rights in the country. 

The lawsuit, filed last year by So Seong-wook, challenged South Korea’s National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) after it took away his ability to receive spousal benefits from the employer of his partner Kim Yong-min. 

“The union of a man and woman is still considered the fundamental element of marriage, according to civil law, precedents of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court and the general perception of society,” the court ruled, according to the United Press International (UPI). 

The couple is not married as same-sex marriage is not recognized in South Korea. 

However, according to the Korea Herald, the NHIS allowed Kim to register So as his dependent in early 2020 – later reversing the decision citing their same-sex marriage. It was believed to be the first such case in the country. 

In the lawsuit, So claimed he and his partner were discriminated against because the NHIS grants spousal coverage to common-law partners, often used by opposite-sex couples who are not married. 

“Under the current legal system, it is difficult to evaluate the relationship between two people of the same sex as a common-law relationship,” said the ruling. 

At a press conference, So told reporters that they plan to appeal the decision, adding: “I believe a world in which people can live equally is coming soon.”

“Even though the court has left it as a matter for the legislative branch, we will continue to fight until the day that our relationship is recognized,” Kim said outside the court. “I believe that love will eventually win.”

Advocates in South Korea said Friday’s ruling was a missed opportunity to move LGBTQ+ rights forward in the country, where there are also no anti-discrimination laws protecting sexual and gender minorities.

“The court could have made a more meaningful decision on the case, but they are trying to avoid touching this issue,” Lee Jong-geol, general director of LGBT advocacy group Chingusai, told UPI after the verdict. 

“But [the case] may help push the country to see that this is an unavoidable issue that we need to do something about,” he said.

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Lesbian pop star Denise Ho arrested then released in Hong Kong

She came Out in 2012 and began her political activist in 2014 as a member of the student-led Umbrella Movement



Denise Ho Wan-see (Screenshot via CBC)

HONG KONG – Chinese and Hong Kong government authorities last week held a series of raids targeting Stand News, a pro-democracy media outlet, arresting staff and current and former board members including Out Canadian Denise Ho, all charged with conspiring to publish seditious materials.

In a press conference held last week, Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Police National Security Department told reporters that over 200 national security police officers were deployed to raid the Kwun Tong offices of the non-profit online outlet the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

Ho, a former board member was arrested at home. She was among at least seven others detained including Stand News deputy assignment editor and head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association Ronson Chan, acting chief editor Patrick Lam and former democratic legislator Margaret Ng.

Police superintendent Li also related during the press conference that the arrested individuals held “important roles in the company’s editorial direction and strategy.” During the newsroom raid, officers found computers, mobile phones and HK$500,000 in cash, he said, adding that other arrest warrants have been issued.

According to Li, Stand News was publishing “seditious materials between the enactment of the security law last June and November 2021 with intent to cause hatred towards the government, the judiciary and cause discontent among the public, which may lead them to disobey the law or the government’s orders.”

The Hong Kong Free Press noted that Li added “such articles were typically written by people who were arrested or in self-exile overseas who acted as bloggers for the platform, Li said. Some were also exclusive interviews with such figures, where interviewees described how they lobbied foreign officials to impose sanctions without reservation.”

In the case of Ho, the singer-actress-activist was released and tweeted to her followers; “Thank you friends for all your kind messages, I have been released on bail and have returned home safely.”

Ho, full name: Denise Ho Wan-see,  is a Hong Kong-based Cantopop singer and actress. She was born in Hong Kong but was raised in Canada and is a Canadian citizen. The 44 year-old is also a pro-democracy and Hong Kong human rights activist.

She came Out in 2012, rare for a celebrity in Hong Kong and began her political activist in 2014 as a member of the student-led Umbrella Movement. In addition to participating in street protests and rallies against an aggressively worsening situation for pro-democracy supporters targeted by the Hong Kong government under pressure by the regime of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Ho became a global voice for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

In an action that angered Hong Kong’s top leader, Carrie Lam, who was appointed by the Beijing government of President Xi Jinping, Ho spoke to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in July 2019 to seek support and protection for Hong Kong’s residents. She also requested that China be removed from the council.

In a related announcement another pro-democracy news outlet in Hong Kong announced that it was ceasing operation Sunday, January 2. (Monday, January 3 Hong Kong Time.)

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