With repeal of Section 377A a 'done deal', law prof asks: Is it time to initiate public discussion on same-sex marriage?

With repeal of Section 377A a 'done deal', law prof asks: Is it time to initiate public discussion on same-sex marriage?
Professor Michael Hor (on screen) brought up the issue of same-sex marriage during a legal forum discussing the impact of Tan Seng Kee v AG on the constitutionality of Section 377A.
PHOTO: AsiaOne

With the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code now in the works, what comes next? 

During a forum discussing the implications of a February judgment by the Court of Appeal on the constitutionality of Section 377A on Monday (Sept 26), University of Hong Kong professor of law Michael Hor said that "we should initiate public discussion on same-sex marriage".

This is given how it's a "done deal" that the Government will repeal the law criminalising sex between men, he prefaced. 

Elaborating on his point, he brought up what he said was a common argument against the recognition of same-sex marriage — that it would "somehow destroy the whole idea of traditional marriage". 

"I just wanted to say that I don't buy that, because we do have different conceptions of marriage in existence already," he added. 

Prof Hor cited Muslim polygamous marriages as examples, questioning: "Why does that not destroy the monogamy of modern Muslim marriages? It hasn't yet. Both coincide, both accept, both tolerate, both include each other." 

Other panelists at the forum included Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, Law Society president Adrian Tan and Singapore University of Social Sciences law school dean Leslie Chew.

'Marriage fundamental to our country'

Responding to Prof Hor, Shanmugam reiterated that the definition of marriage that exists today in the Women's Charter is "something that the government is deeply committed to". 

"We believe that while many people would either not mind or would welcome the repeal of S377A, we don't think Singaporeans are ready for a major sea change in the tonality of our society, and the way our society is the day after," he added. 

Shanmugam also pointed out Prof Hor's arguments are one fundamental reason why many people who actually have a "live and let live approach" are opposed to the repeal of Section 377A because of the "further arguments" that may arise, such as the issue of the definition of marriage and adoption. 

He continued: "These are political issues, and this is why these matters ought to be dealt with in Parliament.

"This government is committed to this definition of marriage. We have given, in very clear terms, where we stand. The next Prime Minister has indicated where he stands, and his Cabinet stands. That's what we can say. And it will be debated in Parliament." 

Ending off his point, Shanmugam re-emphasised that "marriage is fundamental to our country". 

"We believe that part of the reason Singapore is where it is, is because of the way our societal values have evolved, because of the importance we’ve placed on marriage, and we want to keep it." 

At the forum, the law academics and senior members of the legal fraternity said repealing Section 377A is the right move and that there was a significant risk that it could be struck out as being unconstitutional should there be a future court challenge. 

The same question was also posed to the audience, who had a unanimous view.

ALSO READ: Shanmugam clarifies Constitution won't define marriage, but will simply protect Parliament's right to do so


This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.