Gay people have a place in Singaporean society but they cannot be part of the “mainstream way of life,” a senior government minister told the country’s Parliament yesterday.

Ho Peng Kee, a Law and Home Affairs minister, was responding to a motion tabled by MP Siew Kum Hong calling for the repeal of laws that make gay sex a crime.

Last week Mr Siew told The New Paper that the issue was larger than gay rights.

“I truly do believe that Section 377A (gross indecency) is unfair, unjust, and plain wrong,” he said.

“It is contrary to principles of equality and non-discrimination, and it seeks to use the criminal law to enforce a specific moral view which is contrary to accepted fundamental precepts of criminal law.”

A bill before the Singaporean parliament will legalise oral and anal sex in private between consenting straight adults in the first changes to the penal codes in more than two decades.

The new legislation will also create new offences relating to sex tourism and child prostitution.

However, Mr Ho said yesterday that the ban on “gross indecency” will remain in place and male homosexuals still face up to two years in prison for gay sex.

“Repealing section 377A will be contentious and may send a wrong signal that the government is encouraging and endorsing the homosexual lifestyle as part of our mainstream way of life,” he said, according to AFP.

He added that the push for decriminalisation of homosexual acts in the city state of nearly five million people had been contentious and that the majority find them “offensive and distasteful.”

Thousands of Singaporeans have signed an online petition calling for the government to decriminalise and local celebrities created a YouTube “propaganda rap” to get voters to get involved to help repeal 377A.

Last week group calling itself “The Majority” set up a website asking the government of Singapore to “do what is right and retain Section 377A for the future of our children and our nation.”

The authorities have not brought anyone up on charges of gross indecency for several years and the country has an active gay scene.

During the summer a gay poetry reading during Pride celebrations was banned as was a picnic and fun run from the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The authorities also banned an exhibition of 80 shots of fully clothed, same-sex couples which they said “promote a homosexual lifestyle.”

Singaporean authorities have previously banned gay films and public displays of homosexuality.

In July veteran actor Sir Ian McKellen urged the country’s government to ditch the colonial-era laws on gay sex while touring the country with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

In a promotional interview with a local radio station, he said:

“Just treat us with respect like we treat everybody else and the world will be a better place, I think.

“Coming to Singapore where unfortunately you’ve still got those dreadful laws that we British left behind… it’s about time Singapore grew up, I think, and realised that gay people are here to stay.”