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What we don’t understand about same sex marriage

in PHILIPPINES, 04/07/2011

For many of us, lobbying for same sex marriage is definitely taxing without the legislative lingo. And like the Anti-Discrimination Bill that has not gained yet its inclusion, lobbying without the lingo may take forever. The truth is we don’t even have any law protecting LGBT from suffering because of hate and prejudice when they apply for jobs or when they are persecuted on the basis of their being an LGBT person.

Being relatively more than a decade-old advocate of issues about LGBT people, same sex marriage is among the top three issues that are always present in forums of a starter kind. Some of us may know some motherhood answers to questions but to be honest, I haven’t given much thought about it up until I required myself to learn more about its ins-and-outs.

In forums and symposia, people would usually inquire whether the group I represent lobby for the said issue. Some ask for a personal stand while others would directly accuse us of strategizing discriminatory experiences to gain sympathies and later on pursue same sex marriages. Most of the comments may be classified as weird and funny while some ranges from annoying to defamatory. Same sex marriage is ever since a hot issue asked of us that requires proper handling and analysis. And with the recent passage of equal marriage protection law in New York plus the controversial conduct of same sex unions in Baguio City recently, the issue becomes even hotter and a mainstay topic, as expected.

Same sex marriage is more commonly known than domestic partnership or civil unions which makes the former more controversial especially in the Philippine culture. One is because of the word implications attached to the word marriage in which we, more often than not, associate with the dominant religious practices. Second, is the word same sex followed by the word marriage initially breaks down our centuries-old concept of marriage between Adam and Eve. Noted once, churches officiating these holy unions or same sex blessings did not intend to replace the existing but rather simply exercising what they believe in.

The term, due to its religious connotations, cannot pass to its legal membrane. Discussing it without regard to religiosity is but a product of a heavy mental conditioning indoctrinated through time. Because of that, discussions are always centered on its religious membrane with moral standards being used as laws which should not be questioned or criticized. Legal entitlements and privileges of such binding cannot become the central focus for discussions as everyone is so obsessed proving that such has or has no moral basis. And as we swim with those who think the same, we then find ourselves drenched in the death of religious sea that has no end.

Language games

Officiating same sex unions is not new as I would usually hear friends undergoing the same while another set of friends conducting the exchange of vows. Philippine movies have long included shots where union between gay couples take place say in the movie Manay Po while some TV programs featured the church officiating such unions in real life. For whatever reason mainstream media is capturing this issue now, the challenge still lies not just on the understanding of its nature but also of the reasons people choose to have it despite lack of legal recognition and society’s prejudice and mishandling.

As early as year 2000, I have witnessed some gay or lesbian couples exchanging vows with their partners and as a young advocate then who happens to be active also in church’s activities, I likened the ceremony to an activity where friends swear to each other not to do this and that or as some neophytes of a fraternity undergoing final rites and being baptized as a duly brother of their group. It was nothing extraordinary or illegal since we don’t have any law in the country banning executions of these rituals. (It’s but absurd to have one.) In addition to that, the exchange was done in the context of a certain belief which, I think we’ve never learned to accept nor tolerate. Unlearning that there are other denominations practicing their beliefs which may be contrary to ours has always been a serious topic resulting to more divisions and wounded souls in the process. We have never accepted others and we continue to brand them as others—others who will never make it close to the center.

At the back of my mind, lobbying for equal marriage protection law is a sound and valid cause only that the time is not in sync. In matters of political strategy, there are some bills that are still pending that need more attention and ground works. Take for instance the case of New York or any other country that recognizes equal marriage protection, the necessary condition to support such is the existence of an enabling language to understand the various forms of discriminations and inequalities on the basis of sexual orientations and gender identities. Meaning to say, their legislators have long included, understood, and recognized the language that would prove such indicators of its presence.

Unfortunately, in our case, they are yet to be established. The first attempt was done since the 11th Congress where the terms sexual orientation and gender identity were first introduced. Through the Anti-Discrimination bill (ADB) first filed by Akbayan Party List, inclusion, understanding, and recognition of the language was a consideration. Now that we are on the 15th Congress and after 13 years since its introduction, we still continue to attempt for its inclusion. This is in the hope that its successful language inclusion will aid for the legislation of other possible bills relative to the advancement of LGBT rights.

For many of us, lobbying for same sex marriage is definitely taxing without the legislative lingo. And like the ADB that has not gained yet its inclusion, lobbying without the lingo may take forever. The truth is we don’t even have any law protecting LGBT from suffering because of hate and prejudice when they apply for jobs or when they are persecuted on the basis of their being an LGBT person. We have less role model schools that encourage understanding of SOGI in their lessons. And worse, probably up until today some members of the society have not yet accepted that homosexuality is neither a disease nor illegal while others merely used moral grounds to denigrate or deny them. Countless issues are faced everyday and whether we like it or not, being grim and determined today on battles anticipated for the future hinders the winning of wars at present. We can definitely choose our battles and responses and take time to understand them if that is all that it takes.

Ask first, are we speaking the same language?

Sometimes, it’s all about knowing the perfect time to pursue something--assessing whether we are fully equipped to stand our ground and keep the fight like champions did. True champions know when is the right time to cry, to weep, and to stand again. And imbibing that important lesson may also be an unlearning process which takes time to appreciate.

It’s unwise to pick a blooming flower or remove the caterpillar from its cocoon just because buying time is not our trait for they will never get the chance to show their real beauties as created. For all we know, we have killed them too early and the garden that we want to see in this lifetime has eroded because all were done in force and haste.

( Eva Callueng )

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