After two days of speeches on the matter, Singapore’s Parliament repealed section 377A of the Penal Code on Nov. 29, officially decriminalising sex between men.
The bill to remove the anti-gay law was passed with 93 members of Parliament (MP) voting for repeal.
WP MPs Gerald Giam and Dennis Tan, and Nominated MP Hoon Hian Teck were the only three to vote against repeal.
In addition, a separate bill amending the Constitution to safeguard the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was also passed, with 85 voting in favour, two voting against, and two abstaining.
Repealing a law requires just a simple majority of MPs, while any amendment to the Constitution has to be supported by at least two-thirds of MPs, excluding Nominated MPs.
How the parties voted
While the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) did not lift the party whip with regard to voting on the bills, Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh said that he would, given the “unique” nature of the debate on the anti-gay law.
“[377A] is conceived through a religious lens by many in Singapore, in addition to being a matter of conscience for a no less significant number,” said Singh.
As a result, WP MPs Dennis Tan and Gerald Giam voted against the repeal, with the rest of their party colleagues voted to strike down 377A.
With regard to the constitutional amendment, He Ting Ru and Sylvia Lim also abstained from voting, while the six other WP MPs supported the bill.
Non-constituency MPs from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) — the other opposition party with a presence in Parliament — voted in favour of the repeal but did not support the constitutional amendment.
Instead, PSP’s Hazel Poa suggested that a national referendum be held to decide how to move forward on the definition of marriage.
The decision to repeal section 377A was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech delivered on Aug. 21.
In that same speech, PM Lee said that the government would concurrently move to protect the definition of marriage from court challenges.
Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam had cited the significant legal risk that the courts would strike down 377A as one of the reasons that the government had decided to act on the colonial-era law.
Top image from Pink Dot’s and Parliament of Singapore’s Facebook page