The government long saw such things, and homosexuality more generally, as a 'social evil', something decadent to be stamped out to preserve both traditional culture and Vietnamese communism from pernicious Western influence.
That influence is now being welcomed or at least tolerated. However, suggesting Vietnam is allowing greater gay rights to placate a West it may need in times of Chinese aggression is poorly informed, though it has likely occurred to Vietnam's policymakers that gay rights help improve a human-rights record without costing much politically. It couldn't have hurt during TPP negotiations either, according to some watchers.
This may also come down to modernity. Vietnam cherishes its tradition and heritage but it has always been equally afraid of falling behind or seeming backward or tut hau.
Since at least 2011, the gay rights discussion in newspapers has sometimes involved the idea science has proven homosexuality natural and therefore going 'against' it is backwards. It is better for Vietnam to recognise the future than be tied to superstition and the past goes this line of argument.
This 2011 article canvassing mainly learned opinion makes a few interesting points: Vietnam is Buddhist so there is less religious pressure against gay marriage than the United States and, according to Dr Le Bach Duong.
"Homosexual people are not subjects who disturb or harm our society," Duong said. "Once same-sex marriage becomes legal it will help homosexual people to live in more responsible and stable manner."
The importance of state involvement has come up more than once and has been mentioned by Vietnamese justice minister Ha Hung Cuong who said in 2012 that prejudice against gay people was "unacceptable".
"I think as far as human rights are concerned it's time for us to look at the reality," he said more recently on television. "The number of homosexuals has mounted to hundreds of thousands. It's not a small figure. They live together without registering marriage and it creates legal consequences."
In other words, let them deal with the red tape, too. Still, it is technically illegal for couples of any sexuality to cohabit before marriage.
The first Pride celebration was held in Vietnam in 2012. Tam Nguyen, who was the driving force behind the first, told BlueNotes support was high. It began as a small and happy bicycle ride through the streets of Hanoi and kept relatively low-key thanks to longstanding government aversion to things which resemble demonstrations.
"The last four Pride celebrations took place with tremendous support from the LGBTI community across Vietnam, diplomatic community, international organisations and most recently the corporate sector," Tam said.
"It has contributed significantly in creating the momentum for the LGBTI movement in Vietnam and is now one of the symbols of the LGBTI movement in Southeast Asia."
Tam said the community has also seen major corporate support from international companies ranging from Google and IBM to law firm Baker McKenzie, KPMG and PwC.
Activists now push for more inclusion on a range of rights from healthcare to employment. Changing social and family attitudes to LGBTI people remains important.
The government's repealing of a ban on gay wedding ceremonies has not gone the full way to recognising the legal and civil side of a gay marriage.