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WATCH: Meet the Gay Couple Who Challenged Singapore's Sodomy Ban

WATCH: Meet the Gay Couple Who Challenged Singapore's Sodomy Ban


In a prosperous, West-leaning land of contradictions and paradoxes, Singapore's Supreme Court just let an archaic antigay sodomy law stand.

The gay men who challenged Singapore's long-standing ban on sex between men were defeated as the city-state's Supreme Court ruled Section 377a of the penal code is constitutional, according to The Straits Times.

This is a "huge step backwards for human rights in Singapore," said one of the men's attorneys. The three gay men who filed the landmark suit -- couple Kenneth Chee and Gary Lim, along with Tan Eng Hong -- focused their arguments on two aspects of Singapore's constitutional guarantees: equal protection under the law as provided by Article 12 and the guarantee of "life and liberty" under Article 9.

In a 101-page opinion, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang claimed the constitution did not specifically protect Singaporeans from unequal or discriminatory treatment on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

He also rejected the plaintiffs' claim that Section 377a violated their constitutional guarantee of life and liberty because Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution applies only "to unlawful incarceration and not to the right of privacy and personal autonomy." But Singapore's ban calls for up to two years in jail for those convicted. The court's ruling did not address that apparent inconsistency.

"Whilst we understand the deeply-held personal feelings of the appellants, there is nothing that this court can do to assist them," the court said in a statement, leaving it to Singaporean society and its body politic to determine whether there exists a right to consensual sex between adults of the same gender. "Their remedy lies, if at all, in the legislative sphere."

Singapore is land of paradoxes that are made particularly vivid through the prism of LGBT issues. While the island nation and former British trading colony is among the wealthiest and most diverse nations on earth, it remains rigidly opposed to granting basic rights to its LGBT population.

Generally not considered a religiously zealous society, Singapore has a population that is 34 percent Buddhist, 18 percent Christian, 14 percent Muslim, 5 percent Hindu, and 11 percent Christian, while 16 percent are religiously unaffiliated. Members of traditional and folk religions, along with those faith practices not listed above, make up roughly 12 percent of the nation's population, according to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project.

Yet when a controversy about a children's book at a Singapore library featuring gay penguins sprung up earlier this year, national officials cited a "strong pro-family stand" in their decision to remove the books from library shelves throughout the country and subsequently destroy all copies of three children's books that garnered a complaint from one patron.

Get to know Kenneth Chee and Gary Lim, two of the plaintiffs in the landmark suit to overturn the state's ban on gay sex, in the video below. The two Singaporean graphic designers fell in love 15 years ago, and along with their dog Cody, they recount the pain of living in a largely progressive society that still criminalizes their love:

Gary & Kenneth - 15 years from Equality SG on Vimeo.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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