Singapore men appeal denial of their challenge to anti-gay law

Two Singapore men have appealed the High Court’s rejection of their lawsuits challenging Singapore’s anti-gay law as unconstitutional.

The three unsuccessful challengers seeking to overturn Singapore’s anti-gay law: (from left) Bryan Choong Chee Hong (who is expected to appeal); and Johnson Ong Ming and Roy Tan Seng Kee (who have appealed). (Ching S. Sia/Roy Tan/Facebook photo collage courtesy of Singapore Times)

A third Singapore man who also sued to overturn that colonial-era law is also expected to appeal.

Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code provides for prison sentences of up to two years for same-sex intimacy. The law is largely unenforced, but LGBT rights advocates say that the mere existence of the law encourages homophobia and anti-gay discrimination.

Straits Times reported on the current status of the case:

Two men file appeals against High Court decision to dismiss Section 377A challenge

SINGAPORE – Two men have filed appeals against a High Court decision to dismiss their legal challenges against the law criminalising sex between men.

Lawyers representing Mr Johnson Ong Ming, a disc jockey, and Dr Roy Tan, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist and retired doctor, told The Straits Times on Tuesday (March 31) that they had filed appeals in the Court of Appeal.

Dr Tan’s lawyer, Mr M. Ravi of Carson Law Chambers, is appealing “against the whole of the decision” issued by Justice See Kee Oon on Monday, according to court documents.

The third plaintiff, Mr Bryan Choong, the former executive director of LGBT non-profit organisation Oogachaga, is planning to file his appeal soon, his lawyers said.

The trio had filed separate cases challenging the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code, a colonial-era law that criminalises acts of “gross indecency” between men. The offence carries a jail term of up to two years.

In a 105-page written judgment, Justice See noted, among other things, that a previous decision by the Court of Appeal in 2014, involving gay couple Mr Lim Meng Suang and Mr Kenneth Chee, remains binding.

“I am unable to agree that there are cogent reasons for a Singapore court to be able to depart from binding decisions of the highest court in the land,” Justice See had said in his judgment.

The judge also said he had reached the same conclusions as the Court of Appeal, even after taking into account new material put forth by the plaintiffs.

Ready4Repeal, a group behind a 2018 petition supporting the repeal of Section 377A, said in a statement on Monday that the judgment was “a bitter blow” to LGBT Singaporeans who “yearn to be treated as equals in their own country”.

Lawyer Johannes Hadi, a co-author of the petition that garnered over 44,000 signatures, is a member of the legal team that represented Mr Ong.

As many as 20,000 people gather in Singapore for the Pink Dot festival, which seeks recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo)
As many as 20,000 people gather in Singapore each year for the Pink Dot festival, which seeks recognition of the human rights of LGBTI people. A Pink Dot festival spokesman said that the High Court decision “effectively upholds, entrenches and continues the discrimination of a minority group”. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo)

A spokesman for Pink Dot SG, which organises the annual Pink Dot rally for LGBT rights, said on Monday that the decision “effectively upholds, entrenches and continues the discrimination of a minority group”.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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