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Parkroyal Pickering hotel says staff made 'wrongful assumption of the law' in rejecting same-sex couple's wedding ceremony

SINGAPORE — A member of staff at the Parkroyal Collection Pickering hotel had made a "wrongful assumption of the law" and this led the hotel to initially decline to host a lesbian couple's wedding ceremony, a hotel representative said when giving more details on the incident. 

Parkroyal Pickering hotel says staff made 'wrongful assumption of the law' in rejecting same-sex couple's wedding ceremony
A view of Parkroyal Collection Pickering hotel, which is a short walk from Chinatown.
  • Parkroyal Collection Pickering hotel had initially declined a request to host a lesbian couple's wedding ceremony
  • The hotel has since apologised for this, saying it is 'open to hosting all events from the LGBTQ community'
  • A hotel staff had made a 'wrongful assumption of the law' and rejected the couple's request without consulting with higher management 
  • Lawyers say that it is legal for private businesses such as hotels to decline service to LGBTQ individuals or couples, it's also not against the law for hotels to host same-sex weddings

SINGAPORE — A member of staff at the Parkroyal Collection Pickering hotel had made a "wrongful assumption of the law" and this led the hotel to initially decline to host a lesbian couple's wedding ceremony, a hotel representative said when giving more details on the incident. 

Details of the incident first surfaced on Monday (June 20) on the Instagram account @proutapp, which shared an email apparently sent by the hotel to the couple informing them that they would not be able to hold their wedding at the hotel. 

The email read: "I am sorry to inform you that the hotel does not allow same-sex couples to have wedding ceremony and celebration due to the regulation."

The post had drawn more than 2,000 likes and hundreds of comments, most of them expressing anger at the hotel for discriminating against the couple. 

Responding to queries from TODAY, the Parkroyal Collection Pickering's general manager Phil Smith said that the hotel would "like to extend its sincere apology again for causing this disappointment to both the couple and community as a whole". 

"When we were informed by our teams of this email, we immediately investigated the matter as it was not in keeping with the hotel’s position, which has been open to hosting all events from the LGBTQ community," he said.

The hotel is located beside Hong Lim Park, the venue for the annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) rally Pink Dot. TODAY understands that the hotel received the query on June 19, a day after the rally was held.  

"We found that the associate who had replied had made a truly regrettable mistake, with a wrongful assumption of the law, and replied without checking on this with the department leader," Mr Smith said. 

The hotel management had spoken to the associate about the error. 

"The associate feels very remorseful for this error and understands the upset it has caused for the couple, whose special day was impacted." 

Mr Smith also said that the hotel "could have done better to ensure our team’s understanding of the regulations and our ongoing commitment to inclusivity". 

The hotel reached out to the couple on Tuesday "to apologise to them and see if we could assist them with their request", he added.

"We notice they have accepted our apology... however, (they) have declined to now hold the event with us, which is very understandable." 

In an Instagram post on Tuesday from the same @proutapp account, a message that appears to be from the couple confirmed that the ceremony will not be at Parkroyal Collection Pickering, but that the couple had accepted the hotel's apology. 

"We hope that other hotels will be inspired by the Parkroyal Pickering and reconsider their own policies and communications towards allowing same-sex couples to hold their celebrations there," the message read. 

WHERE THE LAWS STAND

Lawyers approached by TODAY confirmed that the hotel would not have broken any laws had it rejected the couple from holding their wedding ceremony there, and that this decision is up to the hotel's own policy. 

Mr Suang Wijaya from law firm Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, who is a criminal and commercial disputes lawyer, said: "To my knowledge, there is presently no law in Singapore that prohibits a private establishment — such as a hotel — from engaging in discriminatory acts against the LGBTQ community."

It is also not possible for a couple in Singapore to "legally compel a private establishment to serve them", he added.

This is unlike in other countries such as the United Kingdom, where there is a law that compels private establishments not to be discriminatory in their provision of services.

On the other hand, it is also legal for a same-sex couple to hold a private celebration such as a wedding ceremony in Singapore, said civil disputes lawyer Trent Ng. 

"However, such unions cannot be solemnised or considered marriages registrable by the Registry of Marriages under the Women's Charter," Mr Ng added.

However, one lawyer disagreed with his two peers and said that the laws are still "somewhat ambiguous" as to whether or not a hotel may host a same-sex wedding.

Citing two provisions from the Women’s Charter, Mr Darius Lee, an associate director at the Characterist LLC, said that when read together, the provisions suggest that it may be an offence to enter into a same-sex marriage or “purport” to do so, or “go through” a “form” of same-sex marriage. 

Section 40(3) of the Women’s Charter states: “Any person who marries or purports to marry or goes through a form of marriage with any person contrary to any of the provisions of Part 3 shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years and shall also be liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000.” 

Meanwhile, Section 12(1), contained in part three of the Charter, provides that: “A marriage solemnised in Singapore or elsewhere between persons who, at the date of the marriage, are not respectively male and female is void.” 

Mr Lee, who specialises in corporate and commercial law, among other fields, said: "This also raises questions as to whether a hotel or any other person may be guilty of the offence of abetment if they host or are involved in a same-sex wedding ceremony."

These legal ambiguities are unhelpful to society as a whole, he added, as it makes it difficult for individuals and organisations to plan their lives adequately "if they do not know, with reasonable certainty, how the law will be applied or enforced". 

"As a result, it would be helpful if the authorities could clarify the scope of the above provisions of the Women’s Charter, as well as any other applicable laws where relevant," he said.  

MOST HOTELS, ASSOCIATION SILENT ON ISSUE 

TODAY reached out to hotels across Singapore, asking them about their policies surrounding the holding of same-sex wedding ceremonies. 

Among the hotels and hotel companies that did not respond to the queries are Furama Hotels International, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Singapore and Accor Hotels. 

TODAY also tried to contact the Singapore Hotel Association on the matter and likewise received no response. 

One hotel group that did respond to TODAY's queries was Millennium Hotels and Resorts, which said that its hotels have “hosted a myriad of wedding functions".

"Our wedding planners are happy to cater to bridal couples’ requirements as long as they are within legal boundaries." 

The hotel group, however, did not directly address the question of whether it was possible to hold a wedding ceremony of a same-sex couple at its hotels.

Related topics

LGBTQ same-sex marriage wedding hotels Parkroyal Collection Pickering law

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