Singapore lifts gay sex ban, but limits chance of legalizing marriage

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Singapore’s parliament on Tuesday decriminalized sex between men but, in a blow to the LGBT community, also amended the constitution to avoid court 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, are recognizing more rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

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

The government has advocated amending the constitution, noting that decisions on such matters should not be left to the courts. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his successor have ruled out any changes to the current legal definition of marriage between a man and a woman.

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“We will try to maintain a balance to sustain a stable society with traditional heterosexual family values, but with space for homosexuals to live their lives and contribute to society,” Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in parliament this week.

Both the repeal and the constitutional amendment passed with an overwhelming majority, thanks to the Popular Action Party’s dominance in Parliament. There is still no deadline for the new laws to come into force.

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

Bryan Choong, president of the LGBTQ advocacy group Oogachaga, said it was a historic moment for activists who have been campaigning for the repeal of the law known as Section 377A for 15 years. 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 one in recent years, especially among youth, although conservative attitudes remain among religious groups.

Of those aged between 18 and 25, about 42% accepted same-sex marriage in 2018, up from 17% just five years earlier, according to a survey by the Institute of Policy Studies.

Source: CNN Brasil

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