Singapore’s court has struck another blow to gay rights, refusing for the second time in this year to strike down a colonial law that criminalizes sex between men.
The first Singaporean who had contested the law nearly three years ago, Tan Eng Hong, had his challenge to the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code dismissed by the high court, with the judge saying the law was based on “morality and social values”.
In his much-awaited judgment Wednesday, Justice Quentin Loh said it was the responsibility of parliament to make decisions on and surrounding controversial issues.
The judge said if parliament thinks “the tide of social and public opinion has shifted”, it can initiate steps to amend the law.
Tan questioned the law three years ago after he was arrested for having oral sex with another man in a shopping mall toilet.
He was initially booked under Section 377A but later charged with committing an obscene act in a public place.
Though he pleaded guilty and was fined, later he challenged the law in court, calling it discriminatory.
The 54-page judgment on Wednesday was not really a surprise as the stern and officially anti-gay island state this year meted out the same ruling to another case challenging the ban on homosexuality.
A gay couple who have been together for 15 years had, like Tan, questioned the constitutionality of Section 377A after a wave of gay marriage legalization around the world.
However, Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee’s petition was rejected by the same judge in April.
Ironically, two months later, Singapore’s Pink Dot gay rally reported a record turnout of over 21,000 people.
Justice Loh acknowledged that Singapore, “like many other societies around the world”, was undergoing change and that society’s perceptions of sexual and other morals change over time.
But he also added that such change take time.
Tan’s lawyer said they will sign the judgment to decide whether to appeal against it.