Agree to disagree on LGBT issues

IN A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states of the US ("Same-sex marriage legalised across US"; last Saturday).

This historic ruling will no doubt spark greater debate on the issue of same-sex marriage here in Singapore.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues have the potential to split the nation into two. Hence, it is of utmost importance that we do not reduce our nation into two opposing camps; those who support gay marriage and those who do not.

However, this does not mean that we should attempt to suppress debate about LGBT issues in Singapore. Doing so may eventually backfire, given the high volume of easily accessible LGBT news in international newspapers today.

Instead, it would be best if Singapore cultivated a culture in which we are able to both articulate our views as well as respect the views of the opposing camp.

Hence, our education system should be such that contentious issues are not hidden from students but instead, encouraged to be debated, with emphasis on respect for the opinions of both sides.

Such a culture cannot be cultivated overnight and is certainly not simple to bring about. Yet, succeeding in such a culture would put Singapore in stable hands for the future.

Next, it is also essential that we keep in mind that Singapore is a secular society. Certain religious organisations in Singapore have strong opinions against LGBT.

Even though we should take their views into consideration, we should not let any one religion dominate the debate on LGBT, nor should any one religion be allowed to shape Singapore's laws regarding LGBT issues.

Certain Singaporeans may speak up and campaign for change to Singapore's existing laws regarding LGBT people. But it is essential that they do so in a peaceful, non-aggressive and respectful manner.

Finally, the importance of agreeing to disagree cannot be over-emphasised.

Eden Chua (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'Agree to disagree on LGBT issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe