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Singapore gay couple seeks to abolish gay sex law

Thursday - 2/14/2013, 7:40am  ET

HEATHER TAN
Associated Press

SINGAPORE (AP) -- A gay couple in Singapore seeking to abolish a long-standing law banning gay sex had their case heard in court Thursday, just days after a former department store manager sued his boss for alleged discrimination against homosexuals.

The two cases highlight how members of Singapore's gay community have become increasingly vocal, demanding changes in the city-state's attitudes toward homosexuality by speaking out against discrimination and raising legal cases to challenge the law.

Singapore's High Court held its first full hearing Thursday in a case brought by Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee.

Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi, the lawyers representing Lim and Chee, said the couple hopes to have the law banning gay sex declared unconstitutional. Singapore law criminalizes sex between mutually consenting adult men, and offenders can be jailed for up to two years.

On Monday, Lawrence Bernard Wee Kim San, a former manager at Robinsons department store, filed a lawsuit claiming his former boss had harassed him into leaving his job because he did not agree with his homosexuality. Robinsons denied any "biasness," ''unfair treatment" or "persecution" by anyone at the store, or that Wee faced "difficulties" or "threats" when he wanted to leave the company.

Gay rights are not widely accepted in largely conservative Singapore. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the issue at a conference last month.

"Why is that law on the books? Because it's always been there and I think we just leave it," he said. "These are not issues that we can settle one way or the other, and it's really best for us just to leave them be, and just agree to disagree. I think that's the way Singapore will be for a long time."


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