Singapore Cardinal Announces Neutrality on Anti-LGBTQ+ Criminalization Law Repeal

Cardinal-designate William Goh of Singapore

Singapore’s archbishop has announced he is neutral on the revocation of a law criminalizing homosexuality, doing so just a few months after he declared his opposition to the repeal and while continuing to oppose marriage equality.

This month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the repeal of Section 377A—a colonial-era law barring same-gender sexual activity. The issue of same-gender relationships resurfaced back in February after the Court of Appeal ruled that Section 377A could “stay on the books but cannot be used to prosecute men for gay sex.” The repeal will be accompanied by a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-gender couples.

Responding to the repeal proposal, Cardinal-designate William Goh stated that the Catholic Church is “neutral so long as our rights are protected.” But this statement came only months after Goh originally announced his opposition to revoking Section 377A, with the Archdiocese saying at the time:

“‘We are fortunate that we have a government that places stability and harmony in our multi-religious and multiracial society above any sectarian interests. . .Likewise, we ask that others who do not subscribe to our values, also respect our right to exercise our religious beliefs without fear or favour.'”

The Archdiocese of Singapore has now posted a statement outlining its new view on the repeal. While noting that the church is against the criminalization of LGBTQ+ people, the Archdiocese explained on its website

“[W]e seek protection of the family and marriage according to natural law; and our rights to teach and practise them unhindered.  We must not allow reverse discrimination to take place against those who believe in marriage as defined between a man and a woman.

“To ensure that this protection is not challenged easily, it is thus necessary that it be enshrined and defined in our Constitution before S377A is removed.”

Goh has addressed LGBTQ+ issues before, but his stances have been inconsistent. Recently, Goh stated that LGBTQ+ individuals should be included in the church as he urged Catholics to focus on “compassion and inclusivity.”

While Singapore has taken a step forward in ending anti-LGBTQ+ criminalization, it is unfortunate that the trade-off is further suppressing same-gender marriage rights. For Catholics, the two issues should not be tied together, since the Vatican has made clear that the church opposes criminalization laws. Sadly, Cardinal-designate Goh and the Archdiocese were among the nation’s religious leaders who forced the compromise. Many LGBTQ+ Singaporeans are now experiencing mixed emotions as they prepare for future challenges

Sarah Cassidy (she/her), New Ways Ministry, August 26, 2022

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