From ‘S’pore not ready for same-sex marriage: PM Lee’, 5 June 2015, article in Today
The Republic is not ready for same-sex marriage as the society is still “basically a conservative one”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. While he noted the developments in developed countries, he pointed out the “considerable resistance” from these places too.
“There is a trend in developed countries. In America, they have gay marriage. It is state by state. Not all states have agreed. In Europe, some countries have done it … but there was big considerable resistance,” said Mr Lee. “Even in America, there is a very strong pushback from conservative groups against the idea.”
… “No, I do not think Singapore is ready … In Singapore, there is a range of views. There are gay groups in Singapore, there are gay people in Singapore and they have a place to stay here and we let them live their own lives. And we do not harass them or discriminate against them.”
He added: “But neither, I think, if you ask most Singaporeans, do we want the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community to set the tone for Singapore society. The society is basically a conservative one. It is changing, but it is changing gradually and there are different views, including views especially from the religious groups who push back … It is completely understandable.”
The Government’s view is that “where we are … is not a bad place to be”, Mr Lee said. “There is space for the gay community, but they should not push the agenda too hard because if they (do), there will be a very strong pushback,” he added.
“And this is not an issue where there is a possibility that the two sides can discuss and eventually come to a consensus. Now, these are very entrenched views and the more you discuss, the angrier people get.”
If two camps can’t argue over a hot button issue without getting into juvenile fistfights, it speaks volumes about the level of ‘maturity’ of our society and the quality of intellectual debate. It also effectively spells ‘end of discussion’ for marriage equality, as other developed nations prefer to call it, because our Government is afraid of how people would react, tiptoeing gingerly over the issue like someone avoiding a roadside offering to a random deity.
No such worries about the casinos, though. Despite the obvious ‘resistance’, our leaders decided to take a calculated risk and subject people to misery and broken families for the sake of glamour and profit, without caring about what the ‘conservative’ folks think. For a while, we didn’t think we were ‘ready’ to get into the vice industry either. Today we’re one of the world’s most popular gambling destinations. The existence of a Higher Power is also an ancient ‘entrenched view’, and religious people get angry all the time whenever someone denies proof of their God, but that doesn’t mean we need to punish people for being atheists. Unless they’re Amos Yee.
Maybe there is an ethical or philosophical way about arguing for or against gay marriage without bringing our despairingly polarised emotions into it, if only our view of it wasn’t clouded by pedantic doctrine, an aversion towards ‘Western influences’ and an irrational ‘yuck factor’ that critics try to disguise when they defend the sanctity and ‘naturalness’ of one man-one woman. I wonder what they have to say about human-animal marriages, though.
We haven’t been ‘ready’ since 2009, when our law minister brushed off calls to repeal 377A. 10 years from now, we’ll still be that same ‘conservative’ society that doesn’t accept same-sex unions, penalises men for having sex with men and bans Jolin Tsai music videos, while referring to everything else that changes as the ‘new normal’ and self-congratulating ourselves for being an ‘inclusive’ society. MPs who are gays will forever refrain from ‘coming out’, and people like Ivan Heng will still get married anyway, with or without the Government, or Pastor Lawrence Khong’s, blessings. No, not even powerful, Ikea- sponsored Christian magic can make the gay go away.
Today, the government is basically repeating the same mantra that they prefer to maintain its old-fogey status quo, that ‘if it ain’t ‘broke(back), don’t fix it’. That you can do whatever you wish without imposing your agenda on others, and everyone is on balance satisfied without following the rest of the world. But one oft-used assumption that deserves to be challenged is why our leaders constantly presume that the ‘majority’ of Singaporeans are not in favour of gay marriage, without conducting islandwide surveys, or, ideally, a referendum (which I doubt they’d want to spend money on). That is perhaps the only reasonable, though costly, way to settle the ‘majority’ assumption once and for all. The Irish did exactly that, approving gay marriage by popular vote. Whether married gays there are henceforth condemned to be haunted by creepy leprechauns summoned by God for this dastardly betrayal remains to be seen.