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Title:CNA: Bills introduced to repeal 377A and amend Constitution to protect marriage definition

This news clip was broadcast during Channel NewsAsia's "Singapore Tonight" bulletin at 10pm on Thursday, 20 October 2022. On Thursday, 20 October 2022, a Penal Code (Amendment) Bill to repeal Section 377A was tabled for its first reading in Parliament by Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam, paving the way for the law to be struck off from the statute books. At the same time, based on a parliamentary order paper released the day before, the Ministry of Social and Family Development introduced the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment No. 3) Bill to modify the Constitution to protect the existing definition of marriage as being between a man and woman, and laws and government policies made on that basis, from being challenged in the courts on the grounds that it violated Article 12 of the Constitution. There were two laws that defined marriage in Singapore - the Women’s Charter stated that a marriage that was not between a man and a woman was void, while the Interpretation Act stated that a monogamous marriage was the union of one man and one woman. The two tabled Bills would be debated together when Parliament sat on 28 November 2022, and then voted on separately. This was because repealing a law required just a simple majority of MPs, while any amendment to the Constitution had to be supported by at least two-thirds of MPs, excluding Nominated MPs. The constitutional amendment, tabled by Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, would come in the form of Article 156 on the Institution of Marriage, which would state in part (1) that the Legislature, that is Parliament, may, by law, define, regulate, protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote the institution of marriage. Article 156 (2) would provide for the Government and public authorities to protect and promote the institution of marriage in the exercise of their functions. The effect of these new provisions was that Parliament could define the institution of marriage and with the Government, could make policies on the basis of that definition. Examples of measures included public housing policies and financial benefits for married couples, as well as education and media policies that promote and safeguard the institution of marriage. Article 156(3) and 156(4) would protect laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and laws and policies based on such a definition, from being invalidated by the courts on the grounds that they violated Part 4 of the Constitution (Fundamental Liberties) which contained Article 12. Examples of such policies included those on public housing, where married couples received financial benefits, as well as education and media policies that promoted and safeguarded the institution of marriage, said the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Social and Family Development in a joint statement after the Bills were introduced. Should the amendment pass, any change to the heterosexual definition of marriage and laws made on that basis could only happen through Parliament and not through the courts. “Such issues should be decided by Parliament, where there can be a full debate that accounts for different perspectives and considerations, and is not tied to a binary (win-lose) decision like in the Courts,” the ministries added. They also noted that the Bill did not codify or enshrine the definition of marriage into the Constitution, a move that some Abrahamic religious groups had earlier called for. Masagos reiterated the Government’s position that families were foundational to society in Singapore, and that the constitutional amendment was aimed at protecting the current definition and laws and policies that relied on this definition from a court challenge. “This significant amendment to our Constitution demonstrates our commitment for Singapore to be a pro-family society and build a Singapore made for families,” he said at a dialogue session with volunteers from social service agencies after the Parliament sitting. Links:


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