Singapore tells foreign firms not to back gay rights rally

SINGAPORE – Singapore has warned Google, Facebook, and Goldman Sachs not to interfere in the conservative city-state's internal affairs after they and other multinational corporate giants sponsored a gay rights rally at the weekend.

The government "will take steps to make it clear that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence such events held at the Speakers' Corner," the interior ministry said in statement, referring to Singapore's only legal protest area.

The warning against foreign involvement with the annual Pink Dot rally comes as Singapore's government is taking an increasingly conservative stance against gay rights.

The ministry said it had released the statement on Sunday, June 5, in response to media queries about whether foreign companies can legally provide sponsorship for the event, which was held this year on Friday, June 3, and also sponsored by Twitter, BP, and major banks Barclays and JP Morgan.

"The Government's general position has always been that foreign entities should not interfere in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones," said the statement.

"These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide for ourselves. LGBT issues are one such example," it added.

In a separate statement released on Thursday, June 9, the ministry said that no action will be taken against foreign companies that sponsored the event this year.

Pink Dot's organizers defended their choice of sponsors, saying they had done all they could to comply with Singapore's laws.

"Our Corporate Sponsors that have supported us over the years are all registered and incorporated in Singapore," Pink Dot said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

A Google spokesman said the company had supported the event since 2011, but declined to elaborate further. Other major companies who sponsored the event could not be reached for comment.

Started in 2009, the rally has grown despite a backlash from social and religious conservatives in the multi-racial nation of 5.5 million.

More than 28,000 attended last year's event but organizers said they did not keep track of attendance this year.

Gay rights movements in the wealthy city-state have grown steadily in recent years, helped by changing social norms among the younger generation and a large influx of tourists and expatriates.

However, in 2014 Singapore's top court upheld a law that criminalizes sex between men, and children's books with gay themes were moved to the adults section in public libraries.

In an interview with journalists last year, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the country was not ready to legalize same-sex marriage, but added that the local gay community is not harassed or discriminated against. –