It was a hot and muggy Saturday in mid-July, and Singapore's oasis of green was turning pink. Men and women gathered in Hong Lim Park, a 9,400-sq.-meter field in the middle of the business district, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Pink Dot, a local movement in support of LGBT rights.
Among the mostly young crowd decked out in pink clothing was Chong Juu Hoe, a 20-year-old who was taking photos with his boyfriend and friends. "Legalizing gay marriage in other parts of the world will definitely help Singaporeans to notice us," he said.
"We are not invisible," he added, stressing that legal progress elsewhere would slowly "break down stereotypes against different sexual orientations."
To an extent, this is already happening in the Asia-Pacific region. Catching the wave of legalization that began in Western Europe in the early 2000s, Taiwan's constitutional court in May 2017 ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. New Zealand had legalized it in 2013, while Australia's parliament voted for it later in 2017.
In Hong Kong, the top court ruled in July that immigration authorities must grant same-sex partners spousal visas, which were previously available only to heterosexual couples.
But as the tide swells, conservative forces are rushing to put up barriers. The clash could open deep rifts in some Asian societies and, from a business perspective, make it difficult to recruit and retain talent in LGBT-unfriendly markets.
Increasingly, the friction between Asian social liberals and conservatives resembles the "culture war" in the U.S., where the left is at odds with the Christian right, many of whom feel left behind by globalization.