Singapore High Court Again Upholds Sodomy Law, Saying Homosexuality Is Not “Immutable”

In a ruling issued Wednesday, Singapore High Court Judge Quentin Low dismissed a challenge to Singapore’s law criminalizing sex between men.

This is the second time this year that Loh has dismissed a suit seeking to strike down the provision, which is known by its numbering in the penal code, 377a. Like many other former colonies, Singapore inherited its sodomy law from the legal code installed by the British.

This ruling comes in a case brought by Tan Eng Hong, who was arrested for having oral sex in a public bathroom at Citylink Mall.

Loh devotes a good portion of his decision to refuting the argument made by Tan’s lawyer, M. Ravi, that homosexuality is an innate trait like having blue eyes. If the court accepted the comparison, the sodomy statute could be held to be “absurd and entirely arbitrary” and therefore impermissible under Singapore’s constitution.

Ravi had submitted statements from the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists along with other evidence to show that the scientific community has concluded same-sex attraction is an innate trait. But this seems to have been outweighed in Loh’s thinking by a single study done by a team at Nanyang Technological University surveying Singaporean’s attitudes towards homosexuality.

This study concluded that “no consensus has been reached” on the “contentious issue” of what causes homosexuality.

“The fact that there is plausible evidence in support of either side must mean that this issue is at least arguable and debatable,” Loh asserted in his ruling. And since the court is “unable to find for Mr Ravi on the factual assertion that homosexuality is a natural, immutable attribute,” Loh ruled this is a matter that must be deferred to the legislature.

Loh’s earlier ruling upholding the sodomy law came in April in a case brought by Gary Lim Meng Suang and Kenneth Chee Mun-Leon. In that decision, now pending appeal, Loh wrote, that the “defining moral issues need time to evolve and are best left to the legislature to resolve.”