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No change to marriage definition 'under my watch' as next PM if PAP wins next GE: DPM Lawrence Wong

SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday (Aug 22) that the definition of marriage, as being between a man and woman, will not change under his watch should the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) be re-elected at the next General Election.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong during an interview with broadcaster CNA on Aug 22, 2022.

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong during an interview with broadcaster CNA on Aug 22, 2022.

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  • Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong repeated assurances that there will be no changes to Singapore's laws and policies that rely on marriage as being between a man and a woman
  • The definition of marriage would not change "under my watch" should PAP win the next General Election, Mr Wong added
  • Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong said that proposed changes to the Constitution will allow the Government to make laws and social policies that depend on heterosexual marriage as a foundation
  • They were speaking in an interview with CNA a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the repeal of Section 377A at the National Day Rally

SINGAPORE — Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday (Aug 22) that the definition of marriage, as being between a man and woman, will not change under his watch should the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) be re-elected at the next General Election.

In an interview on national broadcaster CNA, Mr Wong who is expected to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, also reiterated that the upcoming repeal of the law criminalising sex between men will have no impact on other laws and national policies built on the definition of marriage.

They added that the Government will take action against any acts of discrimination or harassment against people who speak out and practise their faiths and beliefs, whether they are on the side of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community or opposing their cause.

Their comments came a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government will repeal the controversial Section 377A of the Penal Code.

At his National Day Rally speech, Mr Lee said that the repeal of the law will not trigger wholesale changes in society and that the current family-oriented approach, as well as the prevailing norms and values of Singapore society, will be maintained. 

Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, and Mr Tong, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, were interviewed by CNA at the headquarters of the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) on Monday. A transcript was provided to the Singapore press by MCI.

In the interview, Mr Wong repeated assurances that there will be no changes to Singapore’s laws and policies that rely on the existing definition of marriage, including those on adoption of children, public housing, school curriculum, advertising standards and film classifications.

While Mr Wong did not elaborate on the specific policies, Singapore does not consider same-sex couples eligible to apply for child adoption.

MCI also reaffirmed earlier on Monday that media content on LGBT persons will continue to warrant higher age ratings, while the Ministry of Education said that educational policies and curriculum will remain anchored on prevailing family values and social norms.

Mr Wong said: “Let me be very clear, the Government will continue to uphold our family-centred policies. We are fully committed to that.

“Basically, the overall tone of our society will not change. Our laws and policies will remain the same.”

Let me be very clear, the Government will continue to uphold our family-centred policies. We are fully committed to that. Basically, the overall tone of our society will not change. Our laws and policies will remain the same.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong

Mr Wong added that the definition of marriage will not change "under the watch of the current prime minister. And it will not happen under my watch if the PAP Government were to win the next General Election".

During the rally on Sunday, Mr Lee said that on top of the repeal, the Government will also amend the Constitution to protect the definition of marriage from being challenged in the courts.

Mr Tong said on Monday that had the Government not done anything, there was a “significant risk” that Section 377A could be held unconstitutional and struck down by the courts.

This could lead to marriage laws coming under challenge and subsequently, same-sex marriages being recognised in Singapore, which could have an impact on other laws and policies built on the existing definition of marriage.

The Government will thus propose an amendment to the Constitution to safeguard the existing definition of marriage, as between one man and one woman, and protected from constitutional challenge.

“This will allow the Government to continue to make laws and other social policies, which depend on heterosexual marriage as its foundation, without being challenged in court on a constitutional basis,” Mr Tong said.

MINISTER URGES RESTRAINT AND TOLERANCE

Acknowledging the strong emotions attached to the issue of repeal, Mr Wong urged Singaporeans to exercise restraint and tolerance.

“I know that there are some Singaporeans who are also concerned beyond changes on laws and policies, concerned about the excesses of activism and advocacy on both sides — pro-LGBT and anti-LGBT,” he said.

Mr Wong added that the Government has received feedback from people who have been subject to discrimination or even harassment when they speak out or practise their faiths and beliefs.

The Government is monitoring this very closely and will take steps against any such acts, he said.

“There is no place for such behaviours in Singapore,” he said. “No one should feel threatened because of their religious affiliation. No one should feel threatened because they are LGBT.”

FOR SINGAPOREANS TO DECIDE

The ministers were asked how the Government views the positions of local and international companies in Singapore that have taken steps to recognise same-sex marriage or partners of their employees and extended traditional spousal benefits to them.

In reply, Mr Wong stressed that such matters are for Singapore and Singaporeans to decide, repeating a point he made last week in an interview with Bloomberg News when asked to respond to United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comments about Section 377A.

During a visit to Singapore earlier this month, the US politician had called on business groups to support the LGBT community.

Mr Wong said on Monday: “Other countries do what they wish based on their norms, based on their circumstances. But in Singapore, we decide what our social norms are, what family and marriage is about.

“And, I think, if you look at where we are in society, Singapore remains by and large a conservative society.”

Mr Wong acknowledged that in Singapore, attitudes are evolving and younger people are more accepting of LGBT persons and recognising that the sexual behaviour of consenting adults in private should not be criminalised.

But he added: “I believe there are still many people in Singapore who care deeply about (the position on) families and marriage, and would like to keep it that way.”

WORKPLACE PRESSURE, CANCEL CULTURE

In a separate interview with The Straits Times and Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao on Monday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam noted that following the Government's announcement of the repeal, some people have raised concerns that there will be pressure to accept and conform to LGBTQ+ ideology in schools and workplaces.

Others are worried about cancel culture, and that they will not have the freedom to express their views on sex, gender, marriage and family without being silenced.

Mr Shanmugam said that workplaces should be part of the secular space shared by all Singaporeans and not places where people are compelled to support non-business-related causes.

“People tell us that employees feel compelled, particularly at foreign multinational companies, to put up the Pride flag, for example. These are matters of conscience. There should be no compulsion or pressure, direct or indirect," he added.

Employees also should not be discriminated against “just because they hold traditional family values, or pro-LGBT values.”

Mr Shanmugam said that the Ministry of Manpower is looking at this issue, including on how to protect employees from being penalised or discriminated against, though he stressed that this does not mean legislating such measures.

He also said that the Ministry of Law is separately looking at measures to deal with the harm caused by cancel campaigns.

“People ought to be free to express their views without fearing being attacked — on both sides. So, we plan to do something about this,” he added.

“We have to look at the right boundaries between hate speech and free speech, in this context. We should not allow a culture where people of religion are ostracised, attacked, for espousing their views or their disagreements with LGBT viewpoints. And vice versa, whether pro- or anti-LGBT.”

Click here for the latest news and reports on Section 377A.

Related topics

NDR 2022 National Day Rally 2022 Lawrence Wong edwin tong Section 377A marriage K Shanmugam LGBTQ cancel culture

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