Singapore will decriminalize gay sex, block marriage equality

Singapore’s prime minister said his country would repeal a long-discussed law criminalizing sex between men, but he stopped giving equal rights to LGBTQ citizens by calling for constitutional changes to recognize marriage as between a man and a woman define.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s televised announcement on Sunday could soon put an end to a colonial-era law known as 377A that marginalized and discriminated against generations of gay Singaporeans and seemed at odds with the country’s modern and international image .

Lee said attitudes towards LGBTQ issues had changed, allowing the country of 5.5 million to scrap a law the government previously agreed to enforce, as a compromise between rights activists and conservative religious groups.

“That’s the right thing to do and something that most Singaporeans will now accept,” said Lee, whose father, Lee Kuan Yew, served as the country’s notoriously conservative first prime minister. “This will bring the law into line with current social mores and I hope will bring some relief to gay Singaporeans. But at the same time, most Singaporeans do not want the repeal to trigger a drastic change in our societal norms.”

Activist groups welcomed the proposed repeal but warned that a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexual couples would perpetuate existing discrimination. Without recognition, same-sex couples are effectively denied access to public housing, where 80% of Singapore residents live.

“Any move by the government to introduce more legislation or constitutional amendments that signal LGBTQ+ people as unequal citizens is disappointing,” said a statement from a group of 22 equality-promoting organizations, including Pink Dot SG, organizers of the annual Pride rally in Singapore.

A Pink Dot Pride event.

A Pink Dot Pride event.

(Wong Maye-E / Associated Press)

“Repealing Section 377A is the first step in a long journey towards full equality for LGBTQ+ people in Singapore,” the groups added. “Our immediate priorities under Section 377A will be to address the areas of discrimination we continue to face at home, in schools, in the workplace, and in housing and healthcare systems.”

Lee said a constitutional amendment is needed to prevent future lawsuits in court to recognize same-sex marriages. Such a move is likely to appease Singapore’s influential Christian and Muslim organizations who opposed the repeal of 377A.

The National Council of Churches of Singapore said in a statement that it supports a constitutional amendment but is concerned about “an intensification of celebration of LGBTQ+ culture” as a result of the repeal.

The Sex Between Men Act was introduced by the British colonial government in the 1930s. Other former British colonies have repealed similar laws, including India in 2018 and Fiji in 2010.

Asia remains very restrictive when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Gay sex is illegal in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei – countries in close proximity to Singapore. Taiwan is the only destination in Asia that recognizes same-sex partnerships; Thailand could soon come second after adopting draft legislation earlier this year.

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-08-21/singapore-to-decriminalize-gay-sex-but-will-limit-change Singapore will decriminalize gay sex, block marriage equality

Alley Einstein

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