Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday met with two LGBTQ rights activists in Vietnam.
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.