Singapore Parliament Decriminalizes Gay Sex in Historic Reform

In a historic move on Tuesday, Singapore repealed a section of the colonial-era Penal Code to decriminalise gay sex. The parliament also passed a constitutional amendment that seeks to protect the definition of marriage against future legal challenges.

While the decriminalzation of gay sex was hailed by the LGBT community and advocacy groups, the decision to prevent legal challenges to the institution of marriage received criticism from the same quarters.

Australia votes in favor of same-sex marriage
Australia votes in favor of same-sex marriage Reuters

Advocacy Group Hails Decision

While the repeal of Section 377A was passed with a majority of 85 to two votes, the constitution amendment was passed with a majority of 93 to three votes, Channel News Asia reported.

LGBTQ advocacy group Oogachaga hailed the parliamentary decision, saying it was a 'historical moment' for activists who have been calling for the end of Section 377A.

Singapore's Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the constitutional a amendment was brought in to protect the heterosexual definition of marriage. "Just as we have been clear about repealing 377A - we took a clear position - we are equally clear, and this government is very clear, that we will protect the heterosexual marriage as a key institution in our society," he said, according to CNA.

No Changes to Legal Marriage Definition

The Singapore government has made it clear that there will not be changes to the existing legal definition of marriage as a contract between a man and a woman. "We will try and maintain a balance ... to uphold a stable society with traditional, heterosexual family values, but with space for homosexuals to live their lives and contribute to society," Shanmugam reiterated.

Singapore parliament house building
People queue up to pay their respects to the late first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Padang grounds outside the Parliament House in Singapore March 28, 2015. Reuters

The minister also clarified that there is no move to allow individuals to remove their registered sex from their NRIC or passport.

Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli addressed the concerns on religious freedom, saying that it would be against the law for religious leaders to solemnise a same-sex couple.

"One can still preach on the pulpit their beliefs about homosexuality or family, even if others might disagree. But no one should incite violence or hate towards others," the minister said.

Religious organisations can use discretion to refuse same-sex solemnisations or weddings, the minister added. "In exercising religious freedom, we must understand that we are also members of a plural society ...We must graciously accommodate those who have different values from us. Gay people are members of our society and have access to the same opportunities and social support as other Singaporeans," he said, according to Channel News Asia.

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