Monday, July 16, 2007
MP Baey all for repealing anti-gay law
The Straits Times, July 16, 2007

MP Baey all for repealing anti-gay law
By Jeremy Au Yong

A PEOPLE'S Action Party MP yesterday spoke out against then non-review of the law banning homosexual sex.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said if it comes to a vote in Parliament, he would say 'yes' to doing away with the law which makes it illegal for men to have sex with other men.

He was joined by Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong who had previously made public his opposition to Section 377A of the Penal Code which bans homosexual sex.

Both were members of a forum panel yesterday that included gay activist Alex Au, founder of gay media company Fridae Stuart Koe, and Methodist church leader Reverend Yap Kim Hao.

They were discussing the legislation with about 100 participants. When the Home Affairs Ministry proposed changes to the Penal Code last year, it said it would retain the ban on acts of 'gross indecency' between men.

One participant, academic Russell Heng, 56, asked Mr Baey for his position if Parliament took a vote on this issue.

He said he would vote to repeal the law, a response which drew loud applause.

Explaining his stand, Mr Baey drew an analogy between homosexual sex and drinking or smoking.

'There should be a distinction between what the Government wants to discourage, and what it wants to criminalise,' he said.

'The Government can make it more difficult to access drinking and smoking, but you are still allowed to drink and smoke. So, you can discourage homosexual sex without criminalising it.'

He believed the Whip should be lifted if Parliament were to debate this issue. But he conceded that - from his understanding - not many MPs would share his views on decriminalising homosexual sex.

Lifting the Whip means MPs can vote according to their convictions, and do not have to toe the party line.

But Mr Baey emphasised that he did not think this issue would be decided through public consensus.

'From what I understand of how the Government works, I don't think the Government will make a decision based on a survey...The Government would want to make its own stand and position on issues like this,' he said.

Changing the law would require 'some progressive thinking and also people who are able to influence the Cabinet's thinking'.

Thus, recent remarks by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew were welcome, he added. 'We should be happy he made those remarks, and that will pave the way for some change in the thinking of the current Government.'

In an interview with Berita Harian published two weeks ago, MM Lee said the Government should not act like moral policemen, 'prying on consenting adults'.

He also reiterated his view that homosexuals 'were mostly born that way', but also recognised that Singapore is a conservative society and cannot go as far as some countries that recognise gay marriage.

Yesterday's forum also touched on issues about the gay community and what the religious view on the matter was.

Offering his view, Rev Yap said: 'Contrary to the majority of the Christian views... I personally would call for it to be repealed on the basis that this is God's purpose - the existence of the homosexual community...We know there will always be a proportion of the population, generation after generation, who will be homosexual, and they are created by the heterosexuals.'

At the end of the forum, both Mr Baey and Mr Siew said it was good to have open discussion to increase awareness of the issue, but the absence of a different point of view meant the discussion lacked balance.

Said Mr Baey: 'We were talking to the converted.'