Singapore high court upholds ban on intercourse between men

[JURIST] The High Court of Singapore [official website] has upheld [judgment] a law [text] banning intercourse between men as an "outrage on decency." Section 337A of the law outlaws intercourse between men in both public and private settings, and imposes punishments of up to two years in prison. While the provision has not been enforced actively by Singapore authorities against men who engage in consensual sex in private, same-sex couples in Singapore seek to have the law overturned so they are not identified as a criminal class. The plaintiffs in the case challenged the law on the basis that they are not treated equally under the law as required by the Singapore Constitution. In his ruling Friday, Justice Quentin Loh Sze-On asserted that the decision of the Parliament of Singapore [official website] to retain the law [Parliament report] in 2007 was not "undeniably wrong," and so it is not the place of the court to substitute its own views for that of the parliament. In an analysis running back to the creation of a similar Constitutional provision by the US, the ruling stated classifications are inevitable and are permissible as long as they are reasonable.

Same-sex rights have been a hotly debated topic around the world in recent years, including topics ranging from the right to marry to adoption and even to health care coverage for same-sex spouses. Last week, France's Senate commenced debate [JURIST report] of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt children. That same day, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada (ACLU-NV) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST reports] challenging a state law criminalizing consensual sex between same-sex teenagers. Additionally, Uruguay's Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST report], creating one law covering marriage for both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Last month, Vermont's House of Representatives approved a bill requiring out-of-state employers to provide the same health care coverage to same-sex couples as it would for employees with an opposite-sex spouse. Also in March, the Tribal Chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, a northern Michigan Native American tribe, signed into law a measure approving same-sex marriage [JURIST report].

 

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