Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday announced that the city-state would repeal a 1938 law that banned sex between consenting men. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/a7613a2554f2c7a665b371a9acc90c4c/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday announced that the city-state would repeal a 1938 law that banned sex between consenting men. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 21 (UPI) — Singapore on Sunday repealed a colonial-era law banning sex between consenting men.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in a televised address that the city-state would repeal the law known as 377A and “decriminalize sex between men” undoing the law enacted during British rule in 1938.

“I believe this is the right thing to do and something that Singaporeans will accept,” Lee said.

LGBTQ activists in Singapore hailed the decision as “a win for humanity.”

“We finally did it, and we’re ecstatic that this discriminatory, antiquated law is finally going off the books,” activist Johnson Ong told the BBC. “There’s a sense that maybe it took a little too long, but it had to happen, you know. Today we are very, very happy.”

The government had previously planned to keep 377A, which does not apply to sex between women, in place while pledging not to enforce it but Lee said that “gay people are now better accepted” and repealing the law would put the nation’s laws in line with “current social mores, and I hope provide some relief to gay Singaporeans.”

“Every group must accept that it cannot get everything it wants because it is simply not possible,” he said. “And we must maintain the mutual respect and trust that we have painstakingly built up over the years and stay united as one people.”

Lee added that he would also propose a constitutional amendment to protect Singapore’s definition of marriage, which only allows for marriage between one man and one woman.

“Let me reassure everyone that in handling the issue, the government will continue to uphold families as the basic building blocks of society,” he said. “We will keep our policies on family and marriage unchanged and maintain the prevailing norms and social values for our society.”

He said that “many national policies” such as public housing, education, adoption rules and advertising standards rely on the existing definition of marriage, adding that the government would issue the amendment to protect the definition of marriage from being “challenged constitutionally in the courts.”

A group of more than a dozen LGBTQ groups expressed concern about the marriage amendment.

“We urge the government not to heed recent calls from religious conservatives to enshrine the definition of marriage into the Constitution,” the groups wrote. “Such a decision will undermine the secular character of our Constitution, codify further discrimination into supreme law and tie the hands of future Parliaments.”

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