Singapore to amend constitution to prevent same-sex marriages, but decriminalize gay sex

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Singapore will not allow same-sex marriages, even if it will repeal a law criminalizing sex between gay men, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday.

The government plans to amend the country’s constitution to limit the definition of marriage to between a man and a woman, and protect that definition from judicial review.

Marital status is linked to many social policies in Singapore, including eligibility for social housing and adoption. LGBTQ activists in the Southeast Asian country have long labeled this system discriminatory, and some now fear entrenching the definition of marriage will anchor it.

Titled “Disgrace to Decency,” Section 377A states that sex between men is punishable by up to two years in prison.

Rights activists describe the colonial-era criminal code as archaic, discriminatory and contribute to social stigma by labeling members of the LGBTQ community as criminals.

“Section 377A relegates our gay friends and relatives to second-class citizenship by signaling that what they do and who they are is reprehensible and wrong,” reads the Ready 4 Repeal organization’s website.

The Singapore Court of Appeals ruled in February that 377A was unenforceable — building on the decision that the law would be kept on the books, but authorities would not “proactively enforce” the law, as Lee said in 2007. decide otherwise, Lee said Sunday, leaving the nation with this “sloppy compromise” for years.

Still, the law plays an important role in the public debate on LGBTQ issues, and has strong symbolic significance for activists, many of whom have campaigned against the law for generations.

“This has taken a lot of people for decades…today we stand together to enjoy this moment,” Harpreet Singh, a lawyer who helped file a constitutional challenge against 377A in 2019, told The Washington Post. on Sunday.

Oogachaga, a Singaporean LGBTQ community organization, said it was “relieved and hopeful” to hear of the repeal. This could be “an opportunity to start healing the pain that has occurred,” it said.

Section 377A has caused “immeasurable pain and suffering” for LGBTQ people in the country, said Jean Chong, co-founder of Sayoni, a queer rights organization in Singapore. Chong said she “deeply regrets” that the repeal of the law must be accompanied by additional protections for the government’s definition of marriage.

“These proposed constitutional changes will discriminate against LGBTQ families and partnerships who make significant contributions to Singapore’s economy and society,” Chong said.

Religious groups in Singapore, including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore and an alliance of Christian organizations, have argued vigorously in recent weeks for the government to add protection to the traditional definition of marriage.

In a televised address, Lee characterized the government’s bipartisan decision as a compromise that would allow the country to “maintain our current family and social standards.”

“In general, Singapore is a traditional society, with conservative social values,” Lee said. “So even if we revoke 377A, we will maintain and protect the institution of marriage.”

According to the Pew Research Center, several dozen countries have legalized same-sex marriage. Some of them, such as the United States and Taiwan, did so after constitutional objections. Lee said in his speech that his administration wants to avoid such challenges by amending the constitution.

The courts are not the “right forum” to decide the matter, he said. “Judges and courts have neither the expertise nor the mandate to settle political issues and decide on social norms and values ​​– because essentially these are not legal issues, but political issues,” Lee added.

The constitutional amendment will “maintain what I think most Singaporeans still want, which is to preserve the basic family structure of marriage between a man and a woman,” he said, without commenting on details.

A 2022 Ipsos survey reported an increasingly positive attitude among Singaporeans towards same-sex marriage. Nearly 50 percent of all respondents said they were more accepting of same-sex relationships than they were three years ago.

Rebecca Tan in Thailand contributed to this report.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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