ST: MP Baey all for repealing anti-gay law (Jul 16)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

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 the

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

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

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.'