As America Legalises Gay Marriage, Singapore Struggles With Gay Acceptance


Gay marriage has been legalised in the United States. Does that mean that Singapore will legalise gay marriage soon?

The short answer is no.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent comments made this abundantly clear: the stand of the “silent majority” in Singapore society is still conservative. The impetus for the Singapore government to change such laws has long been non-existent, preferring to sit on the fence rather than take actionable steps.

Moreover, the two challenges made by Singaporeans Tan Eng Hong, Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee against the Attorney-General to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377(A) of the Penal Code have been struck down swiftly by the courts.

Section 377(A) makes it illegal for a man to “commit or abet the commission of… any act of gross indecency” with another man. The narrow definition of the law technically does not criminalise the homosexual being, but labeling someone a criminal for the way he consummates his love for his male partner is descriptive unto itself.

While the Prime Minister’s words are not without facts, generational changes are apparent.

In an Our Singapore Conversation survey conducted two years ago, more than 50% of the 4,000 Singaporeans surveyed were not supportive of legalising same-sex marriage in Singapore, with the older generation – those above the age of 35 – leading the charge in opposing the idea.

On the other hand, youths – aged 15 to 34 – are generally more accepting of gays. This is also shown by the record-breaking turnout year after year at the annual LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Pink Dot rally at Hong Lim Park.

Proponents of gay rights in Singapore have been heartened by the support given, in the form of what organisers calculated as a record-breaking 28,000 attendees at this year’s Pink Dot, as compared to 26,000 people who turned up last year.

An ever-growing number of corporations, including Twitter, Cathay Organisation and Google have also been throwing their weight behind the group.

While the LGBT-supportive voice has grown louder, their opponents have increasingly been growing more vocal as well.

For example, the Wear White movement, started by Muslim religious teacher Noor Deros last year, has been resonating with Singapore’s conservatives. Organisers claimed that they received more than 300 pictures of supporters dressed in white, and it was reported that at least 10,000 congregants of the Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) wore white last year, in support of the movement.

This year, senior pastor of FCBC Lawrence Khong claimed to have gathered more than 15,000 people from 15 churches to do the same.

In passing the judgement Friday for the Supreme Court ruling to allow for same-sex marriage across all states in the US, Justice Anthony M Kennedy wrote that “no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.”

“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

While it seems that the Americans have managed to successfully effect a paradigm shift in the battle for equal rights for gays, the same, however, cannot be said for Singaporeans.

Unless proponents of the Pink Dot can somehow secure the mandate of the people, and demand for a referendum to be held, it seems that the people’s wish for a repeal of Section 377(A) and the discrimination of gays in Singapore can only remain a wish. These people can then only look to what is happening in the US with wistful eyes: a dream of “what-could-have-been”.

(Featured Image Credit: Secular Policy Institute)

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