Singapore Gays Rally Amidst Anti-Gay Laws

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The LGBT world has a sense of jubilation as gay rights are celebrated through rallies and parades, including most recently in Singapore, despite laws that punish homosexuals. Although there are detractors in places where gay pride is acknowledged around the globe, Pride month is more and more being recognized as an integral part of modern society.

Pride month occurs in June worldwide in those places that it is not illegal to be gay or lesbian. The event began 45 years ago, on June 28, 1969, with riots at the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City. The protest was in response to the rough and inequitable treatment LGBT individuals received at the hands of police who regularly raided gay bars as part of the anti-homosexual legal system in the 1950s and 1960s.

Singapore’s “Pink Dot” rally

In Singapore, 26,000 people turned out on Saturday for one of the largest crowds in a civil gathering in that country’s recorded history. The assembly, called “Pink Dot” (see video below), has been held annually since 2009 in an effort to promote nondiscrimination against same-sex couples. In Singapore, sex between two men is illegal, punishable by up to two years in prison, although enforcement of the law is rare. Lesbians are not mentioned.

In prior years, the rally in which participants dress in pink and gather in a circle to form a “pink dot,” had not received resistance. This year, however, Christian and Muslim groups organized in opposition, wearing white, in protest to what they say is growing acceptance of homosexuality in Singapore.

That the event took place on the eve of Ramadan further incited the anger of the Muslim groups. The hostility, mirroring laws in many other places in the world, put a slight damper on the jubilant atmosphere of the Singapore gay rights rally.

London, England’s Pride parade was recorded as having tens of thousands of marchers and included a statement of well-wishes by Prime Minister David Cameron, noting that the institution of same-sex marriage is just one reason to celebrate. The U.K. theme this year is “freedom.” Mr. Cameron said that he was committed to improving LGBT rights “across the planet” and that he had raised his concerns with President Putin about the treatment of gays in Russia.

Tel Aviv honored LGBT people with Pride Week two weeks ago, kicked off by flying the Gay Pride rainbow flag at the U.S. Embassy in that country. The flag was accompanied by a post on the Facebook page of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, which stated that the Embassy was “Proudly flying the colors.” The annual parade included floats, marching groups, and uplifting music.

Toronto has put together a 10-day event, called WorldPride, culminating on Sunday, June 29, spanning 25 city blocks, including art, film, a parade, and musical celebrations. By one estimate, close to a million people marched in this year’s parade. Local media report that the streets were overflowing, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne took part in the morning Pride and Remembrance Run.

Brazil celebrated gay pride in São Paulo while the country observed the World Cup. According to one estimate, 2.5 million revelers were attracted to the event. They were dressed in colorful costumes, dancing and singing through the streets in what is claimed to be the world’s largest pride parade. The theme this year was to advocate for the criminalization of anti-gay motivated crimes in Brazil.

Boston Pride’s events also last for 10 days. This year the theme, in keeping with the global premise of greater acceptance and embracing diversity, was “Be Yourself, Change the World.” 25,000 people in over 200 groups marched in the parade, which showcased well-known U.S. politicians, including Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Kennedy. The year was particularly poignant, as it coincided with the 10-year anniversary of same-sex marriage in the United States, which began in Massachusetts.

Los Angeles Gay Pride hosted pop singer Demi Lovato as Grand Marshall. At the parade, she filmed the video for her new song Really Don’t Care, engaging participants. L.A.’s Pride event started one year after the Stonewall Riots, as was true in many other large U.S. cities, and proclaimed that they had over 400,000 marchers, participants, and spectators.

Meanwhile, gay marriage continues to roll out in the United States. Earlier this week, due to the removal of a ban by a U.S. district judge, Indiana became the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage. A federal appeals court then issued a stay on Friday, which put a halt to marriages in progress, leaving couples in limbo. The question is whether those who did get married are still legally bound.

Across the world, there are still over 75 countries where it is a crime to be gay or lesbian, and the LGBT people who live in those countries struggle and suffer daily. Only a fraction are able to leave, and those who do, worry about the families and lives they have left behind, often uncertain about their safety and their futures.

While this lack of safety is sanctioned by anti-gay laws across the globe, it is nonetheless centrally important to LGBT people – in Singapore and in the rest of the world – that they rally together to celebrate who they are, pride in their community, and safety amidst the crowd.

Opinion by Fern Remedi-Brown

Previous articles published by the author about gay rights and the LGBT community:
Gay Marriage – North-South Divide
Religion-Based Discrimination in Arizona: Serving Up Bigotry
Would an Appropriate Response Be a Sit-in or a Kiss-in?
Uganda Newspaper Identifies Gays
Texas LGBT Community Hopes for Big Win
Uganda and South Africa History of Freedom Compared
St Patrick’s Day Parade Long Time Coming for Gay Groups in South Boston
Uganda Vice President Challenges President in Anti-Gay Law
Same-Sex Marriage Pioneers Mark 10-Year Celebration
Ethiopia Anti-Gay Bill Expected to Pass Next Week
Boston Pride Happy and Unique
Uganda Latest on Anti-Gay Law

Previous articles published by the author about LGBT asylum:
England and Wales Now Open to Gay Marriage
LGBT Asylum Support Task Force
Help for Gays in Detention Seeking International Asylum
Boston Pride Still Not Safe

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