Gay man launches anti-discrimination bid

Gay man launches anti-discrimination bid
Mr Wee, a former Robinson employee, claims that he was harassed into resigning from the company due to his homosexuality.

SINGAPORE - A former Robinsons employee who claims he was harassed into resigning due to his homosexuality has launched a High Court bid to have discrimination against gay men declared unconstitutional.

Mr Lawrence Bernard Wee Kim San - who says a supervisor once advised him to turn "straight" - pointed to Article 12 of the Constitution which states that "all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law".

On Friday, the 40-year-old filed an affidavit asking the court to declare that this applies, regardless of sexual orientation.

He also believes his former employer breached the Constitution by discriminating against him. Mr Wee's case began in December when he brought a separate civil suit against the department store, claiming he was harassed into resigning because he is gay.

The former assistant general manager for cards and corporate sales said his contributions were not recognised and he was subjected to "unrelenting and unceasing" discrimination after Mr Jim McCallum was appointed head of Asia for Al-Futtaim, which owns the Robinsons Group.

Mr Wee claimed that Mr McCallum, who has now left the company, once said: "Anything from Lawrence cannot be right to begin with.

"Lawrence is wrong already as a person."

He also alleged that his direct supervisor, Mr Shia Yew Peck, asked him if he had "ever considered turning straight" because it would be "more acceptable at work and makes life easier".

Mr Wee said that he was advised to look for another job because Mr McCallum's bias was "deep-rooted".

His suit was dismissed on contractual grounds but he is now appealing against the decision.

On Friday, his lawyer M. Ravi released a media statement saying Mr Wee wishes to be allowed to prove his worth at work, "without fear that an immutable characteristic" will become a "millstone around" his neck.

He said that gay men have no constitutional protection as there is no legislation in place that outlaws workplace discrimination against them.

Mr Ravi told The Straits Times that this was especially important, given that Singapore had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention to

Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women - which protects lesbian rights.

The lawyer said that a number of gay men had recently approached him for help due to workplace discrimination.

He added: "This constitutional challenge seeks to achieve equality and dignity for homosexuals."

waltsim@sph.com.sg


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