The article below was published by the Straits Times. Sayoni is proud of two of its actively contributing members, Irene and Olivia, for coming out publicly in mainstream media.
Gay MP? 'Her private life is her private life'
But society is not ready for such openness in Parliament: MM Lee
By Elgin Toh
Social mores at one time kept single women out of Parliament. The likes of Ms Penny Low and Ms Indranee Rajah, both sitting MPs and unmarried, prove that frontier has been breached.
Might gay people one day follow in their footsteps?
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has revealed that he has no problems with having homosexuals in Parliament.
The surprising comment came in an interview in which Mr Lee makes his most comprehensive statement on homosexuality to date. It was published in a new book about his beliefs, Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going. It is available at bookstores with DVD for $39.90.
Asked about the possibility of gay MPs, he said: 'As far as I'm concerned, if she does her work as an MP, she looks after her constituents, she makes sensible speeches, she's making a contribution, her private life is her life, that's that.'
Mr Lee, however, made it clear that his personal view did not automatically become the policy of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), which he no longer leads, saying later in the same interview: 'I'm not the prime minister, I told you that before I started. If I were the prime minister I would hesitate to push it through against the prevailing sentiment, against the prevailing values of society.
'You're going against the current of the people, the underlying feeling. What's the point of that, you know, breaking new ground and taking unnecessary risk?'
He said he believed it had been scientifically proven that homosexuals were genetically different from heterosexuals. 'They are born that way and that's that.'
Asked what he would do if he had a grandchild who was gay, he cited the example of former United States vice-president Dick Cheney, who was against homosexuality but whose daughter is gay.
'He says, 'I still love her, full-stop',' noted Mr Lee. 'Do you throw the daughter out? That's life. I mean none of my children is gay, but if they were, well, that's that.'
He was more ambiguous about whether same-sex marriages should be allowed or if gays should be given rights of adoption, noting that 'complications' would arise. 'Who is going to bring them up?' he asked.
'Two men looking after a child? Two women looking after a child, maybe. But I'm not so sure because it's not their own child. Unless you have artificial insemination and it's their own child, then you have a certain maternal instinct immediately aroused by the process of pregnancy.'
Calling his view the 'purely practical view', he said 'we cross the bridge when we come to it', adding: 'We haven't come to that bridge yet. The people are not ready for it. In fact, some ministers are not ready for it.'
Political watchers and MPs said Mr Lee's views were more liberal than those of mainstream society, and they did not expect the PAP Government to change its basic stance.
'They'll still be wary about fielding someone who is known to be gay at the next election, because they won't want the election to be sidetracked by the sexual orientation of a candidate,' said Mr Eugene Tan, law lecturer at Singapore Management University.
'But MM is painting the larger picture of how what is acceptable is something that would change and evolve with time.'
Said Mr Charles Chong, an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC: 'PAP candidates have never been asked to declare our sexual orientation. MM is right in saying an MP should be judged purely on his performance, and not on his sexual orientation.'
Members of the gay community here welcomed some of Mr Lee's remarks.
'Some of what he said was heartening, but I wish he would have extended it to say that decriminal-ising 377A, legalising same-sex marriage and adoption would therefore make sense,' said communications executive Charmaine Tan, 35, referring to Section 377A of the Penal Code, which makes sex between two men an offence.
Ms Irene Oh, 27, and Ms Olivia Tan, 30, would both like to raise children. One way is to get pregnant through assisted reproduction, such as artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
'We know some couples who get it done overseas, but that's very expensive,' said Ms Oh, a software developer and administrator of lesbian website Sayoni.com.
They are also open to adopting children. While welcoming Mr Lee's comments, they disagreed that adopting a child lessened the maternal bond.
Said Ms Oh: 'If MM Lee is right, then even heterosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt, because they, too, have no biological connection with the child. I think adoption is a great act of love, and there is no reason to expect adoptive parents to be any less caring.'