High Court upholds anti-gay sex law, gay couple's appeal rejected

Singapore's High Court upheld the controversial Section 377A law criminalising sex between two men, after a challenge by a gay couple (Getty Images)

Singapore's High Court ruled on Friday that a law banning intercourse between men still stands, after a gay couple filed a legal challenge calling for the law to be unconstitutional.

Justice Quentin Loh gave his verdict after reserving judgment when the case was heard on 6 March. The case was filed by couple Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, who have been together for 15 years.

One of the plaintiff's main arguments is that the section violates Article 12 of the constitution, emphasising that all citizens are entitled to equal protection before the law. Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalises acts of "gross indecency" between two men, carrying a jail term of up to two years.

"It is not that the courts do not have any role to play in defining moral issues when such issues are at stake. However, the courts' power to intervene can only be exercised within established principles. The issue in the present case no doubt is challenging and important, but it is not one which, in my view, justifies heavy-handed judicial intervention ahead of democratic change," said Loh.

Loh said in court that the views that Parliament made in October 2007 regarding the law are "without a doubt controversial and disparate among various segments of the society."

"What is clear, however, is that Parliament has decided that Section 377A should be retained. That decision is not one which is undeniably wrong," Loh explains.

"Our courts cannot substitute their own views for that of Parliament."

Responding to the ruling, couple Lim and Chee said in a statement, "We are disappointed that the High Court ruled against us and upheld Section 377A. Having been together for 15 years, it is disheartening that we are criminals in the eyes of the law because of a segment of society that will not live and let live, but insist on pushing their version of religion and morality on us."

"We believe that most Singaporeans do not believe that gay people should be jailed for something they can’t change, and we believe that an equal and fair Singapore is worth striving for. We have received many supportive messages since this began, and we ask that people continue to come together as we work towards a Singapore that everyone can truly call home," the couple added.

Lawyer Choo Zheng Xi, who represented the couple in this case, said, "Litigators are trained to be prepared for victory or defeat. While we've lost this battle and disappointment is a natural cause of that, we will take our client's instructions on whether to proceed with an appeal."

Click on the photo below for the full written judgment by Justice Loh.



















Click on the picture for the full written judgment by Justice Quentin Loh.