Lawyer for gay couple argues that anti-same sex law should not apply to private acts

SINGAPORE - The law that criminalises sex between men should be modified so that it does not apply to private acts between consenting adults, the lawyer for a gay couple argued in the Court of Appeal on Monday.

Senior Counsel Deborah Barker, representing Mr Gary Lim, 46, and Mr Kenneth Chee, 39, said her clients are not asking for affirmation that male homosexual conduct is acceptable in Singapore.

Rather, they are seeking a ruling from the highest court in Singapore that the majority cannot, in the guise of public morality, target an unpopular minority group by restricting their intimate conduct in private which is legal for everyone else.

The three-judge Court of Appeal is hearing the joint appeals of two separate challanges against Section 377A of the Penal Code, which makes it a crime for men to commit acts of "gross indecency" with other men.

Mr Lim and Mr Chee had filed their challenge after Mr Tan Eng Hong, 50, first contested the law in 2010 after he was charged for having oral sex with another man in a public toilet.

Both the couple and Mr Tan contend that Section 377A is unconstitutional. Their cases were separately heard - and dismissed - by the same High Court judge last year.

Both appealed. The Court of Appeal later granted Mr Tan's request for his appeal to be heard together with that of the couple, after his lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, argued that this was more efficient than having the court hearing the same issues twice.

Two days have been scheduled for the appeal hearing, during which Ms Barker, Mr Ravi and Senior Counsel Aedit Abdullah from the Attorney-General's Chambers will be making their respective arguments on the issue.