Singapore Pink Dot Rally Draws More Than 20,000 For LGBT Pride, Despite Government Crackdown

"When my grandkids look back on this, I want them to see their grandfather was on the right side of history."

Pink Dot, Singapore’s annual LGBT Pride celebration, took on an air of resistance this weekend as more than 20,000 people crowded into Hong Lim Park, despite government regulations barring foreigners and multinational corporate sponsors.

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An amendment to the Public Order Act in October meant that organizers of public events at the Speakers Corner “must ensure that only citizens of Singapore or permanent residents of Singapore participate in the assembly or procession.” For the first time, attendees had to go through security checkpoints, where their IDs and bags were inspected.

Multinational companies like Google, Facebook and Barclays, who normally helped sponsor the event, were also barred from making contributions. (Singapore also banned the rainbow emoji on Facebook.)

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“Foreign entities should not fund, support or influence events that relate to domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones,” the Ministry of Home Affair said in a statement last month. “These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide.”

The Ministry insisted the regulation applied to anti-LGBT demonstrations as well as pro-LGBT ones.

Fortunately more than 120 local companies stepped in and picked up the slack, donating $240,000—well in excess of the $150,000 goal.

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Male homosexuality is illegal in Singapore, though the law is rarely enforced. Each year, attendees at the Pink Dot celebration wear pink and gather to form a giant “pink dot” in support of diversity, inclusiveness and the freedom to love. As the sun set on Saturday evening, participants turned on lights, creating the image of a rainbow and the word “Love” from above

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“One day these people will be given the freedom to love and marry someone of the same sex,” 63-year-old Loh Kwek Leong—who came with his wife, daughter, and his daughter’s boyfriend-told the Straits Times. “And when my grandkids look back on this, I want them to see their grandfather was on the right side of history.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery