Singapore society occupies a middle ground between the Middle East and San Francisco when it comes to the issue of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT).
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made these comments on June 26 at the Smart Nation Summit held at Marina Bay Sands.
Lee said: "We are not like San Francisco, neither are we like certain countries in the Middle East. It's something in between. It's the way this society is."
He was responding to an audience member who referenced the upcoming Pink Dot rally on Saturday, June 29, and asked if legislation would support diversity within the workforce, including people from the LGBT community.
Singapore welcomes the LGBT community despite keeping Section 377A
PM Lee elaborated that Singapore is open to the LGBT community even though Section 377A, the law that criminalises sex between men, will continue to remain on Singapore's legislation, ST and Today reported.
PM Lee said: "You know our rules in Singapore. Whatever your sexual orientation, you are welcome to come and work in Singapore."
He added that LGBT people are living freely here with the annual Pink Dot gathering occurring over the years.
He also said: "But this has not inhibited people from living, and has not stopped Pink Dot from having a gathering every year."
Possible for Singapore to have vibrant culture and tech scenes
Lee further said it was possible for tech and culture to thrive within the middle ground that Singapore society occupied.
He added: "I think in this framework (between the Middle East and San Francisco), it's completely possible for us to have a vibrant tech and cultural scene."
Position has been consistent since 2007
Lee's position on the LGBT issue has been consistent since 2007.
At that time, in a two-day Parliamentary debate over Section 377A, Lee said it was “better to accept the legal untidiness and the ambiguity” because it works.
He further elaborated that it was “better to let the situation evolve gradually” because Singapore is an open society.
As to why this was the case, a 2017 BBC HARDtalk interview saw Lee explain that he did not believe removing the law will remove the problem of homophobia.
In Lee's own words:
"I think that it is a law which is there — if I remove it, I will not remove the problem because if you look at what has happened in the West, and in Britain, you decriminalised it in the 1960s, your attitudes have changed a long way but even now gay marriage is contentious. In America it is very contentious. Even in France, in Paris, they have had demonstrations in the streets against gay marriage."
When pressed by the interviewer for his personal stance on the issue, Lee added that he was prepared to live with the situation as an uneasy compromise until social attitudes changed:
"My personal view is that if I don’t have a problem -- this is an uneasy compromise -- I’m prepared to live with it until social attitudes change."
Top image from Lee Hsien Loong Facebook