S’pore gay couple hire top lawyers for Section 377A appeal

Gary Lim, 44, and his 37-year-old partner Kenneth Chee, both graphic designers, who are challenging a provision in the penal code known as Section 377A that makes it a crime for men to have sex with each other. (Pink Dot SG)

A Singaporean gay couple, whose legal challenge against a Singapore law criminalising sex between men was recently dismissed, have appointed top lawyers to help with their appeal.

Queen’s Counsel Lord Peter Goldsmith, who has a “formidable reputation”, is being sought out to argue the appeal, said a statement to the media by the couple, Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee on Tuesday.

Goldsmith was a Attorney-General for England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2007.  The couple have filed an application for him to act as co-counsel.

Goldsmith has “recently argued a similar case to s 377A before the Belize Court of Appeal on points of international law,” the couple said in the statement.

The other lawyer is Senior Counsel Deborah Barker, a senior partner from Singapore law firm KhattarWong LLP.

In the statement, the couple described Ms Barker as “the ideal person to take on this next crucial stage of the constitutional challenge” because of her “extensive experience in a wide range of legal cases”.

The couple also thanked their previous lawyers, Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi, for seeing their case through the High Court challenge.

Chee, who has been with his partner for the last 15 years,  has said that while he does not live in fear of being caught by the police for his relationship with Lim, he knows that "s 377A labels me a criminal".

He added that even though lawmakers have said that the law will not be "pro-actively" enforced, the fact that the law exists "leaves the possibility of 'passive enforcement', should someone decide to make a complaint against us one day".

Just last month, a record-breaking 21,000 people turned up for Pink Dot 2013 at Hong Lim Park, a movement that calls for equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation.