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9 Jul 2013

Singapore gay couple in s377A challenge appoints new legal team

In addition to hiring a senior partner from a prominent Singapore law firm, the plaintiffs have applied to have England's former attorney-general Queen's Counsel Lord Peter Goldsmith act as co-counsel in their appeal.

Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee, who had unsuccessfully petitioned the High Court to have the country's anti-gay sex law declared unconstitutional, have appointed a new legal team to help with their appeal.

Gary Lim, 44, and Kenneth Chee, 37,
have been partners for 15 years.
“I don’t live in fear every day that I will get caught by
the police because of my relationship with Gary but
I know that s 377A labels me a criminal,” said Chee.

According to a media statement issued today, the pair has appointed Senior Counsel Deborah Barker who is a partner and Head, Litigation & Dispute Resolution, at KhattarWong LLP, one of Singapore’s leading law firms.

Lim and Chee have also filed for the admission of Queen's Counsel Lord Peter Goldsmith to argue the appeal as co-counsel with Barker. Lord Goldsmith Q.C. is Chair of Asia and European Litigation at Debevoise and Plimpton LLP, and was Attorney-General for England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2007.

Lord Goldsmith had recently represented the London-based Human Dignity Trust, the International Commission of Jurists and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association to argue a similar case to s377A before the Belize Court of Appeal. Located along the northeastern coast of Central America, the former British colony's criminal code currently outlaws "carnal intercourse" between consenting same-sex adults. The Belize court has not ruled.

Lord Goldsmith will represent the couple pro bono as did he when he represented the three legal groups in Belize.

“We are glad that Ms Barker and Lord Goldsmith have agreed to represent us in this case,” said Gary and Kenneth in the statement. “Ms Barker's extensive experience in a wide range of legal cases – having represented both individuals and private organisations in both the High Court and Court of Appeal – makes her the ideal person to take on this next crucial stage of the constitutional challenge. Likewise, Lord Goldsmith has a formidable reputation in cases involving constitutional and fundamental rights, and has recently argued a similar case to s 377A before the Belize Court of Appeal on points of international law."

Lim and Chee also thanked their lawyers, Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi for "having the courage to take our case up and for seeing us through the High Court challenge."

A recent fundraising drive for the couples's legal fees raised US$107,730 via crowdfunding site Indiegogo in two months.

According to the Human Dignity Trust, as of 2013, over 80 countries – including about 42 of the 54 Commonwealth countries – have laws criminalising private, consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex, making the expression of their identity illegal and punishable by imprisonment or even death.


Reader's Comments

1. 2013-07-09 16:37  
Yes! Best wishes for success, and having the best experts and heavyweights on your team is a good place to be.
2. 2013-07-09 20:23  
interesting that a country that prides itself on its economic prowess etc should be incapable of being sensible in regards to civil liberties and equality... good on you guys for being brave enough to push the boundaries...
3. 2013-07-10 01:57  
15 years - hope that the computer is fine now... all the best guys....wonderful......!!!!!!!
4. 2013-07-10 03:06  
It's one thing to read about this couples struggle for
equality under the laws of Singapore; it's another thing to hear
them speak about each other in the video clips. I hope the High
Court of Singapore finally gets it right much like the Supreme
Court of the U.S. finally did. Equal under the law means equal
under the law "except" if your LGBT.
Comment edited on 2013-07-10 12:50:01
5. 2013-07-10 07:38  
Deborah Barker, SC, is, of course, the daughter of the late E.W Barker, former Cabinet minister and one of the pioneer statesmen who led Singapore to independence from Britain so, it does make sense for Gary and Kenneth to have someone of her political pedigree on their side.
Comment #6 was deleted by its author on 2013-07-10 07:40
7. 2013-07-12 01:11  
More power to guys! I wish your country can give equality to sexual orientation and to all people there, the same as Canada did here.
Good luck SG.

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