The Singapore High Court has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to challenge the island’s ban on homosexual behavior, which is a crime under the law.
Gary Lim Meng Suang, 44, and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon, 37, had challenged Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, which prohibits male-to-male sexual contact. The men, who have been in a relationship for 15 years, claimed that the law violated the Singapore Constitution, which states that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.”
However, Justice Quentin Loh ruled in a 92-page decision that it is not for the courts to decide social and moral issues, and that it is rather the duty of the Parliament.
“To my mind, defining moral issues needs time to evolve and is best left to the legislature to resolve,” he wrote. “It is not that the courts do not have any role to play in defining moral issues when such issues are at stake. However, the court’s power to intervene can only be exercised within established principles.”
Legislators in Singapore voted on the matter in 2007, opting to keep the law on the books.
Loh opined that as Parliament constructs laws pertaining to societal matters, someone is always going to come out unhappy, and consequently, there is always going to be inequity.
“[Therefore,] equality before the law and equal protection of the law under Art 12 (I) does not mean that all persons are to be treated equally, but that all persons in like situations are to be treated alike,” he declared.
Additionally, since “Parliament has decided that Section 377A should be retained, … [o]ur courts cannot substitute their own views for that of Parliament,” Loh said, noting that the legislative intent was “clear” in barring sexual relations between those of the same sex.
The men said that they were disappointed with the ruling as they did not like being restrained in their sexuality.
“Having been together for 15 years, it is disheartening that we are criminals in the eyes of the law because of a segment of society that will not live and let live, but insist on pushing their version of religion and morality on us,” said the men commented in a statement released by the homosexual activist organization Pink Dot. “We believe that most Singaporeans do not believe that gay people should be jailed for something they can’t change, and we believe that an equal and fair Singapore is worth striving for.”
However, Christians and other religious groups in the nation have opposed any efforts to repeal Singapore’s ban on homosexual behavior, even though officials admit that it is rarely enforced.
“The repeal of similar laws [has] led to negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of the society,” asserted pastor Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church.
Tan Eng Hong, a homosexual who was charged under the law in 2010, is also awaiting a ruling for a similar lawsuit that he has filed over the matter.