Gay and lesbian people are “valued members of society” and welcome in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Wednesday, in a statement that is at odds with his government’s resistance to popular efforts to decriminalise homosexuality.

“These things shift, but we have to give them time,” Lee said during a question-and-answer session at the Singapore Tech Forum, where he used a keynote address to promote the country to the industry. “I think it is unwise to force it, because there will be a push back and you’ll end up with polarisation and be in a worse place than we are.”

Senior members of Singapore’s business, political and legal elite backed the most recent attempts to overturn the law in 2018. Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam ruled out reforms at the time, acknowledging that while a growing minority want the law repealed, “public opinion is often relevant” when it comes to policy making.

India’s High Court decriminalised gay sex in 2018. Thailand earlier this year advanced a bill that would expand legal rights and recognition of same-sex couples; it’s pending final approval in parliament.

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