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Singapore repeals ban on gay sex but limits ability to legalize same-sex marriage



Reuters

Singapore’s parliament on Tuesday decriminalized sex between men but, in a blow to the LGBT community, also amended the constitution to prevent legal challenges that in other countries have led to the legalization of same-sex marriage .

The moves come as other parts of Asia, including Taiwan, Thailand and India, recognize more rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Activists applauded the repeal but said the amendment to the constitution was disappointing because it means citizens will not be able to challenge issues such as the definition of marriage, family and related policies in court, as these will only be decided by the executive and the legislature. .

The government has defended the change to the constitution, saying decisions on these matters should not be made by the courts. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his successor have ruled out any changes to the current legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

“We will try to maintain a balance … to maintain a stable society with traditional, heterosexual family values, but with space for gay people to live their lives and contribute to society,” said Home Secretary K Shanmugam, in Parliament this week.

The repeal and constitutional amendment passed with an overwhelming majority, thanks to the dominance of the ruling People’s Action Party in parliament. There is no timetable yet for the entry into force of the new laws.

The changes, however, leave room for a future parliament to expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships.

Bryan Choong, president of LGBTQ advocacy group Oogachaga, said it was a historic moment for activists who have campaigned for 15 years to repeal the law known as Section 377A. But he added that LGBT couples and families “also have the right to be recognized and protected.”

In Singapore, attitudes towards LGBT issues have shifted towards a more liberal stance in recent years, particularly among young people, although conservative attitudes remain among religious groups. Among people aged 18 to 25, around 42% agreed to same-sex marriage in 2018, up from 17% five years earlier, according to a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies.

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