Singapore gays rally for counter opposition

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Singapore's increasingly public gay community unites in the name of pride.

By SATISH CHENEY

Singapore Gay Rights

SINGAPORE (AP) - Thousands of gay rights activists gathered in downtown Singapore on Saturday for an annual rally that came under unprecedented criticism from religious conservatives, with one influential Christian pastor calling on the government to ban the event.

Previous Pink Dot rallies have been held without much opposition. But as they grew in numbers from less than 3,000 people when the first event was held in 2009 to more than 20,000 last year, so did their disapproval. Organizers said a record 26,000 people showed up Saturday.

Singapore gays rally for counter opposition
Gay activists dressed as female construction workers or Samsui Women and laborers from the colonial period, pose in mock salute on Saturday, June 28, 2014 in Singapore. Thousands of gay rights activists gathered in downtown Singapore on Saturday for a rally that this year drew unprecedented criticism from religious conservatives, with one influential Christian pastor calling on the government to ban the event.(AP Photo/Joseph Nair)
Gay activists dressed in pink, pose for photos on Saturday, June 28, 2014 in Singapore. Thousands of gay rights activists gathered in downtown Singapore on Saturday for a rally that this year drew unprecedented criticism from religious conservatives, with one influential Christian pastor calling on the government to ban the event.(AP Photo/Joseph Nair)
People take part in the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (HLBT) visibility march, the Gay Pride, under the rain on June 28, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
People take part in the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (HLBT) visibility march, the Gay Pride, on June 28, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
People take part in the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (HLBT) visibility march, the Gay Pride, under the rain on June 28, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
People take part in the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (HLBT) visibility march, the Gay Pride, on June 28, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold a giant rainbow flag during a gay parade on Istiklal Street, the main shopping corridor on June 22, 2014 in Istanbul during the Trans Pride Parade as part of the Trans Pride Week 2014, which is organized by Istanbul's 'Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals' (LGBTT) solidarity organization. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold a giant rainbow flag during a gay parade on Istiklal Street, the main shopping corridor in Istanbul, on June 22, 2014, during the Trans Pride Parade as part of the Trans Pride Week 2014, which is organized by Istanbul's 'Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals' (LGBTT) solidarity organization. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A couple pose in a cart with a placard reading 'Just Married', as they take part in the 3rd Gay Pride march of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO /SAKIS MITROLIDIS (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of people parade in the streets of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, as they take part in the city's 3rd Gay Pride march, on June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO /SAKIS MITROLIDIS (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
GUADALAJARA, MEXICO - JUNE 21: Members of lesbian and gay community take part on the gay pride parade on the streets of Guadalajara on June 21, 2014 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Leonardo Alvarez/LatinContent/Getty Images)
GUADALAJARA, MEXICO - JUNE 21: Members of lesbian and gay community take part on the gay pride parade on the streets of Guadalajara on June 21, 2014 in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Leonardo Alvarez/LatinContent/Getty Images)
A woman with the word 'adoption' drawn-on as a mustache poses during the Gay Pride Parade in Lisbon on June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
Men wearing rainbow wigs take part of the Gay Pride Parade in Lisbon on June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds a giant rainbow flag during the Gay Pride Parade in Lisbon on June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 21: Two men in drag participate in the annual Christopher Street Day parade on Kurfuerstendamm avenue on June 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. This year the annual gay and lesbian pride fest was divided into three different parades due to quarrels over the political aims of the event. Berlin, known as a tolerant and open city, has a very active gay community. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 21: Two men in lederhosen participate in the annual Christopher Street Day parade on Kurfuerstendamm avenue on June 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. This year the annual gay and lesbian pride fest was divided into three different parades due to quarrels over the political aims of the event. Berlin, known as a tolerant and open city, has a very active gay community. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Drag Queens wave different national flags during the Christopher Street Day (CSD) gay pride parade in front of Berlin's Memorial Church (Gedaechtniskirche) in Berlin on June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO / CLEMENS BILAN (Photo credit should read CLEMENS BILAN/AFP/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 21: APeople on a Staue of Liberty-themed float participate in the annual Christopher Street Day parade on Kurfuerstendamm avenue on June 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. This year the annual gay and lesbian pride fest was divided into three different parades due to quarrels over the political aims of the event. Berlin, known as a tolerant and open city, has a very active gay community. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Participants wear hats featuring Russian church domes during the Christopher Street Day (CSD) gay pride parade in front of Berlin's Memorial Church (Gedaechtniskirche) in Berlin on June 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO / CLEMENS BILAN (Photo credit should read CLEMENS BILAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - 2014/06/14: A gay couple kiss in front of the Greek parliament building whilst holding a Rainbow colored flag. Hundreds of people on Saturday joined Greece's annual gay pride parade in a long-standing demand for equal rights to civil union and adoption. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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On paper, gay sex remains a criminal offence in the wealthy, multi-cultural city-state of 5.4 million, although authorities rarely enforce the British colonial-era legislation, known as Section 377A.

Lawrence Khong, the founder and pastor of the 10,000-member Faith Community Baptist Church, has been the most vocal critic of homosexuality and the Pink Dot rally.

In a statement, he said he could not understand why authorities were allowing the rally to take place.

"I find it even more disconcerting that the event is being used as a platform of public persuasion to push their alternative lifestyle," he said. "I would like to see our government leaders draw a clear line on where they now stand with regard to this moral issue."

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said he believed Singaporean society should be one "where you don't go pushing your own beliefs and preferences, but at the same time everyone else keeps the balance in society and avoids creating conflict."

Former lawmaker Siew Kum Hong, who tried to get Parliament to repeal Section 377A unsuccessfully, said he believed that the legislation will be overturned eventually.

"I've always maintained that the government's position is untenable. When presented with a chance to repeal 377A, it decided to avoid making a principled decision and instead opted to kick the can down the road."

Other opposition came from an Islamic teacher who encouraged Muslims to wear white Saturday on the eve of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which was interpreted as a response to a Pink Dot video showing a Singaporean Muslim declaring his support for the LGBT community.

The LGBT supporters wore pink in the rally, whose highlights include large crowds standing together with pink torchlights at night, creating a spectacular aerial view.

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