Plans by Touch Family Services to hold a gathering to celebrate the concept of family on the same day as a picnic for gay rights have fallen through.
Supported by several religious groups, the event was originally named Red Dot Family Moment and was slated to be held at the Padang on June 28, the same day as the Pink Dot picnic in Hong Lim Park. The voluntary welfare organisation had called on members of various faiths to turn up at the venue dressed in red in a show of support for the family.
However, the Urban Redevelopment Authority rejected its application last month to hold it at the Padang and Touch said yesterday that it was cancelling the event.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said yesterday without giving more details that it did not find Touch's proposal to be suitable for the use of the Padang.
Although MSF had offered the group four alternative sites, Touch deemed them unsuitable as the welfare group said it was expecting a sizeable turnout.
Mr Edmund Wong, general manager of Touch Family Services, said Red Dot Family Moment was one of several names suggested for the event, which was to include a ceremony for couples to renew their marriage vows and a segment in which family members would recite a pledge in support of family.
He said they later chose to name it #FamFest 2014 to align it closer with celebrations for the International Year of the Family and SG50 celebrations marking the nation's golden jubilee.
Mr Wong said plans to hold the event on the same day and to adopt a red theme were not meant to be confrontational.
"The Red Dot event title and red colour theme were inspired by Singapore's national colour and the SG50 tagline - Celebrating The Little Red Dot," he said.
He added the date was chosen as it is the last Saturday of the June school holidays, when the annual National Family Celebrations usually end. It also allows the Muslim community to join in before Ramadan kicks in the next day.
Touch had engaged religious and community groups such as Love Singapore, a network of about 100 churches, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and Taoist Federation Singapore to publicise the event to their members.
But the alternative venues, which MSF did not name, were not as accessible and did not have as many crowd-friendly amenities as the Padang, which is surrounded by shopping malls.
Though Touch denies any comparison with the Pink Dot event, observers told The Straits Times these would have been unavoidable had both been held on the same day.
Said engineer Tan Yang Zhi, 27: "Observers may compare the turnout for both events and make their conclusions on how open the public is towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders."
Pink Dot, first held in 2009, has continued to draw bigger crowds each year, with a record 21,000 people turning up to support the cause last year.
Pink Dot spokesman Paerin Choa said the movement, which champions the freedom to love as a right for every Singaporean, regardless of his sexual orientation or gender identity, welcomes any effort to strengthen family ties.
Mr Choa said: "We believe in celebrating diversity and inclusiveness within the family as a very important building block of society." Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar Nair told The Straits Times he believes any group should be allowed to come together to make its feelings known on any issue.
"It's a difficult issue, and neither group is going to persuade each other that each is right. Like in other countries, this debate is going to be moved by the neutrals - people sitting on the fence."
Mr Nair believes such people will shape the future of the issue.
"Ultimately, it's a battle for the hearts and minds of those who are neutral and the group which behaves more reasonably and has the better arguments will have the edge."
This article was published on May 7 in The Straits Times.
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