PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not think Singapore is ready for same-sex marriage because the society is still conservative, although it is changing gradually.
But gay people have the space to live their lives in Singapore, he said. "We do not harass them or discriminate against them," he added while replying to a journalist from the Philippines who was interviewing him with other ASEAN journalists at the Istana.
Mr Lee noted that same-sex marriage is gaining acceptance in some developed countries such as Britain, and some states in the United States.
But, he added, "even in America, there is very strong pushback from conservative groups".
Similarly, the range of views on gays in Singapore include those of "religious groups who push back", he added. "And it is completely understandable."
His comments reflect a position government leaders have expressed in the past several years.
In the 2011 book, Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, Singapore's first Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said he believed homosexuality is in a person's genes: "Some people are that way and just leave them be."
Mr Lee Kuan Yew had also said homosexuality would eventually be accepted. "It's already accepted in China. It's a matter of time before it's accepted here."
On Thursday, PM Lee told the journalists: "The Government view is that where we are is not a bad place to be."
He also said that if asked, most Singaporeans would not want the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community to set the tone for Singapore society.
"There is space for the gay community but they should not push the agenda too hard, because if they push the agenda too hard, there will be a very strong pushback," Mr Lee said.
"And this is not an issue where there is a possibility that the two sides can discuss and eventually come to a consensus. Now, these are very entrenched views and the more you discuss, the angrier people get," he added.
This article was first published on June 6, 2015.
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