July 2003

News agency reports about gay civil servants






4 July 2003

Singapore eases ban on gays

Singapore has reversed its policy and will now hire homosexuals, Time Magazine reported Friday. In an excerpt from a Time interview, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said the policy had been changed "quietly." Gay people are now allowed to work in "certain positions in government", Goh said. 

"In the past, if we know you're gay, we would not employ you but we just changed this quietly," he said. 

However he said homosexual acts would remain illegal in the country. Goh said gay people will have to declare their sexual orientation in job application forms, which he said was for the applicants' own protection. 

It is not clear when the new policy was introduced, and Goh did not say what jobs homosexuals could take. Time also said the government was relaxing its attitudes towards gays in an attempt to attract foreign professionals, and to keep talented locals working in the state.

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Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network
4 July 2003

Singapore softens attitude towards gays

The Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Goh Chok Tong, has disclosed that gays are now being employed within the government, even in sensitive jobs. 

Homosexuality is still frowned on by the largely conservative inhabitants of this small, yet hugely influential, island. 

In the past the government would not employ gay people, as it was a criteria always asked at interview, primarily to avoid blackmail issues. 

He told Time Magazine that the changes were taking place without a huge fanfare so as not to ruffle feathers in the country. "In the past, if we know you are gay, we would not employ you. But we just changed this quietly. We know you are. We'll employ you," he said. 

He went onto add that Singaporeans would understand the issue better with time. "So let it evolve, and in time the population will understand that some people are born that way." 

"We are born this way, and they are born that way, but they are like you and me," he concluded. However he said that homosexual acts would remain an offence.

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Deutsche Presse-Agentur
5 July 2003

Singapore letting gays halfway out of the closet

The Government is now openly employing gays, even in sensitive jobs, although homosexual acts will remain an offence, the Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, disclosed in a magazine interview. The policy change was being enacted without fanfare to avoid alarming more conservative Singaporeans, Mr Goh said in the next issue of Time magazine. 

According to excerpts conveyed to The Straits Times by the Prime Minister's office, homosexual acts will remain an offence. Certain things that homosexuals want are not feasible, such as holding gay parades, Mr Goh said. But gay people who declared their sexual orientation would be hired in "certain positions in the Government", Mr Goh was quoted as saying. 

"In the past, if we know you're gay, we would not employ you," Mr Goh said. "But we just changed this quietly. We know you are. We'll employ you." Homosexuals had to disclose their status to avoid being open to blackmail, he said. 

Over time, he said, Singaporeans would understand the issue better. "So let it evolve, and in time the population will understand that some people are born that way. "We are born this way and they are born that way, but they are like you and me." 

A survey in the conservative city-state in 2000 found that most young Singaporeans harbour negative sentiments towards gays. Nearly seven out of 10 questioned said they would be disturbed to find out their doctor was homosexual and 90 per cent would be upset to discover their child, brother or sister was gay. The findings followed the Government's rejection of an application for a permit by a gay activist to hold a forum on homosexuality. 

Because mainstream moral values were conservative and homosexual acts were illegal, they said, such a forum would be contrary to the public interest.

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Associated Press

13 July 2003

Derring-do attitude hits Singapore 
by Yeoh En-Lai

Singapore will now permit bungee jumping. Also, people can dance on the bar in saloons allowed to stay open 24 hours. And theater performances can use explicit language. "In fact, so changed is our mind-set that we will even allow reverse bungee," Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said Saturday, in launching a "Remake Singapore" program designed to shake up the dull image of this famously uptight city-state. 

Or at least try. 

While being catapulted into the sky at the end of a giant rubber band is now allowed, jaywalking at bus stations is forbidden under tougher rules also announced Saturday. So Singapore's government remains in strict control, even in its efforts to loosen up and market itself as a media and arts center. 

Among the committee's more than 100 proposals to remodel society is an "Audience Development Fund" to "educate" citizens about art and encourage flea markets with no government permit. 

Earlier, the prime minister also said his administration would begin employing openly gay people, a surprising development in Singapore, where homosexuality is thought to violate conservative Asian social norms. 

"Not every room needs to be furnished to the same taste," Goh said. "Some may like their room to have cool colors, while others may prefer to decorate it with pinups." Permitting bar-top dancing also was announced earlier this week, along with the longer bar hours. "If we want our people to make more decisions for themselves, and if we are to encourage a derring-do society, we must allow some risk taking and a little excitement," Goh said. 

Singaporeans enjoy one of Asia's highest standards of living under some of the world's strictest laws. The government regularly fines people for spitting and not flushing public toilets and only recently allowed the sale of chewing gum.

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24 July 2003

Singapore policy on gays triggers Christian backlash, dialogue urged

The Singapore government's decision to allow professed homosexuals to join the civil service has triggered a Christian backlash, and members of the local gay community have called for a dialogue. 

The mass-circulation Today newspaper said Thursday that a group of Singaporeans wrote to the heads of the local Catholic, Anglican and Methodist communities after some some churchmen reacted with fury to the move. The one-page letter, signed by six "Christians who happen to be gay," appealed for a "friendly and respectful dialogue" following rising opposition from some church groups to the decision to allow gays into the public sector. 

Moral, biblical and scientific arguments have been raised in the debate, and the letter writers said the "polarising" approaches taken by some churchmen were "not helpful to fostering a healthy theological debate within a reasoned and Christ-like environment." 

"We recognise that we may never reach a common consensus regarding Christians who are gay. However, it is our hope that this dialogue will result in greater love and understanding between us, that it will begin to heal the many hurts and clear the misunderstandings that have been inflicted on all sides during the course of this long-standing debate," the letter said. 

The churches have yet to respond to the letter, but Singapore's Anglican Bishop John Chew told the newspaper that a "united response" will be issued soon by the National Council of Churches of Singapore. "The phenomenon of homosexuality is not compatible with the reading of the scriptures," Chew said, adding that clergymen were acting as "concerned citizens" and "we are aware that the gay lobby is also pushing hard." 

The response of the public has been mixed since it was made known early this month that the government has begun hiring gays in a low-key policy shift that challenges the island-state's conservative values. The Straits Times said that it has been deluged with letters on the gay issue and "majority of the writers were for accommodating the gays." 

But those against greater openness were vehement. "The government has shown quite clearly by its action that it has lost its moral authority... we are not helping our children to see the corrupting and subtle influences of such a lifestyle," reader George Lim wrote in a recent letter to the Straits Times newspaper. 

On Wednesday, the Straits Times carried scathing comments from a independent Christian church pastor who said "we cannot stand idly by" amid changing attitudes toward homosexuality.

"Homosexuality is a sin and it is far more rampant, militant and organised than many of us actually believe it to be," Pastor Yang Tuck Yoong of the Cornerstone Community Church said. "The battle lines are now drawn and it is time for the Church in Singapore to rise up and make a stand." 

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong has revealed that gays are now allowed to work in "certain positions in government" but homosexual acts remain illegal because of the opposition from the Muslim community and the majority of other Singaporeans. Goh's comments were made in a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine. The Time report said the Singapore government was relaxing its repressive attitude to gays as part of a broader approach to attract foreign professionals and keep talented locals working in the island-state. 

Singapore, best known for discipline and efficiency, is promoting the creative sectors such as media and the arts as part of efforts to restructure its manufacturing-dependent economy.   


Foreword by Yawning Bread

Here are reports from UPI, DPA, Associated Press and AFP, from the period 4 to 24 July 2003. This period covers the first reports of Prime Minister Goh's remarks to Time magazine about now employing gay people even in sensitive government positions, to the fundamentalist Christian backlash.