Repeal of S377A: PAP Govt will do what is good for S’pore instead of taking easy way out

The debate on the repeal of Section 377A and amendment of the Constitution started today (November 28) in Parliament. 

The PAP Government’s decision to repeal Section 377A is based on a simple principle: It is the duty and responsibility of Singapore’s elected officials to step in for the good and well-being of Singapore society. 

Both Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli and Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam laid down this principle in their opening speeches today. 

The risks of not repealing Section 377A right now are significant and they have been articulated multiple times on previous occasions. 

Knowing these risks and refusing to take a position—choosing instead to leave the matter to the Courts to decide is an “abdication of duty” said Minister Shanmugam. 

“It would be cynical if we did that because we would be putting our political capital over doing what is good for Singaporeans.” 

Make no mistake: Pushing this gnarly issue to the Courts to handle would be the easy way out for Parliament. It is the “path of least resistance” for this Government, said Shanmugam. 

“But this Government will not take that approach,” he added. 

“As elected representatives of the people we cannot do that. If we see a risk that a law may be found unconstitutional, it is our duty to act and deal with it in Parliament.” 

In particular, with such a contentious social issue such as the repeal of S377A, it is the duty of our elected parliamentarians to intervene and accommodate the nuances of our multi-religious, multi-cultural society. 

Both Ministers Masagos and Shanmugam pointed out that court processes are adversarial by nature. 

“Their decisions are binary, zero sum. You either win or you lose,” said Minister Shanmugam. 

“There is no middle ground. No balancing of competing interests. The courts cannot consider competing social norms and social consequences of their decisions. If they strike down Section 377A, they will do so without being able to consider the consequential effects of their decision on the definition of marriage for example,” he added.

In contrast, Parliament is able to propose amendments to the Constitution to protect heterosexual marriage while not discriminating against gay Singaporeans. 

Amending the Constitution to give Parliament the power to define marriage—instead of enshrining it in the Constitution — is also the mark of a responsible Government. 

“This government will not use our current super majority in Parliament to tie the hands of the future generations…This is how democracy works,” said Minister Masagos, adding that future governments elected by Singaporeans are free to amend the definition of marriage if society wishes for it. 

This approach works, said Masagos, because the government on its part is fair and considers all perspectives, including those who are religious, as well as those who are not religious. 

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Cover photo credit: John T on Unsplash