By Eveline Danubrata
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore is seeing a groundswell of support for same-sex rights, reflected in a record 21,000-strong "Pink Dot" rally in the city-state, only months after its High Court rejected a petition to repeal a law which criminalizes sex between men.
"There is more awareness, especially with the rise of social media. I think with greater awareness, there is greater support as well," said Kierin Galistan, a secretary and one of the participants at the "Pink Dot" rally on Saturday.
"Everyone deserves to love and be loved, regardless of sexual orientation," said Galistan.
In Singapore, sex between men carries a maximum penalty of two years' jail, but the law is seldom enforced.
Organizers said the "Pink Dot" rally in Hong Lim Park was the biggest since its inception in 2009, with an estimated 21,000 people. "It's a strong signal that Singapore is not as conservative as some think," said rally spokesman Paerin Choa.
The Singapore High Court in April rejected a petition by graphic designers Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee to repeal the gay sex law and few believe Singapore will soon change what critics say is an archaic and discriminatory law.
"It seems that the Singapore government thinks it's not time to change the law yet, as they have the perception that the majority of the people in Singapore are still conservative," Lynette Chua, an assistant professor of law at National University of Singapore, said on Sunday.
Chua said pro-gay rights people are likely to wait for the outcome of Lim and Chee's appeal to understand the court's thinking before challenging the law again.
The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a landmark victory for gay rights on Wednesday by forcing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal and paving the way for it in California.
(Reporting by Eveline Danubrata; Editing by Michael Perry)
(This story was refiled to fix typos in the sixth and seventh paragraph)