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The LGBT and Same-Sex Marriage Issues in Philippine Context

The LGBT and Same-Sex Marriage Issues in Philippine Context
By Y. A. “Joey” Tugung | 01/05/18

Majority of the Filipino people have conflicted views on this sexuality and gender identity-based issue. This level of dysfunction has been agonizing as a result of the friendship and kinship that we have with the LGBT community on one hand versus our social and cultural mores and the moral conviction and creed that we hold on the other hand. Not to mention that the current law of the land, which regulates marriage (“The Family Code of the Philippines”), clearly prohibits same-sex marriage. And this is compounded, ironically, by the supreme law of the land (the “1987 Philippine Constitution”) since it is open-ended on the matter as it neither discriminates nor prohibits same-sex marriage. 

In a snapshot, this is how convoluted this very important civil rights issue is in our country. Regardless, whatever differing opinions and views that we have – be it legal, moral, social, cultural and religious; this emotionally charged identity politics issue (politics based upon issues such as gender and sexual orientation) is not a zero-sum game anymore in the 21st-century context. Thus, at this juncture, let us not be pugnacious, but instead, we just have to face realities by debating this national issue with an open mind and listening to the better angels of our nature. And towards that end, we have to come up with a mutually acceptable compromise, i.e., a kind of concession that places everyone in a “win-win” situation without undermining our confidence in the legal system of our country, and if possible, without insulting our spiritual, moral, social and cultural values and sensitivities.

To most, anchored on their personal social, cultural, historical and spiritual orientation, the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage is not only a non-starter but a no-brainer, as well. Understand, Philippines is the 4th largest Christian country on earth, with about 90% of the population being adherents. It is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia, and is the third largest Catholic country in the world. And along with the other major religions, such as Islam, including the different Christian denominations and sects present in the country, its tenets arguably forbid homosexuality and same sex-marriage.

Historically, since the birth of our Republic in 1989 through the early 60’s, the DNA strands of the Filipino Nation consider gay, lesbian and bisexual a “taboo” in the country’s moral, social and cultural fabric; while the idea of same-sex marriage was totally inexistent nor was a part in any of the public policy discussions. In fact, people of such sexual orientation were even ostracized, while some were disowned, not only by their family and kin but also by their peers and the community, in general. In short, homosexuality then was something that no one wanted to admit or dare to talk about.

However, since the advent of the civil rights movement of the transitional 1960s, headed by Martin Luther King, Jr., and the growth of counter-culture activism and sexual revolution through the 90’s; the world’s  social, moral, and cultural order has shifted in tectonic proportions, such that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and homosexuality in general, did not only become socially acceptable in society but were also given civil rights and gender diversity protection against sexual harassment and discrimination by some western countries.

Moving to the New Millennium, due to the advancement in surgical science and the rise of international activism on gay rights; the social, moral and cultural composition of society were again subjected to another shot of transformation. This time with Darwinian evolutionary-like proportions, the change came with the gender birth of transgender and transvestite and the rise of gay marriage or same-sex marriage, which admittedly has shaken the foundations of civil society.

The increasing Gay pride or LGBT pride in worldwide events, through Pride parades with their conspicuous Rainbow Flag, is a global manifestation that have cancelled shame and social stigma of being a LGBT. And at the heart of this worldwide social acceptance and recognition is HUMAN DIGNITY. Without a doubt, it is a fact that the LGBT, now a very popular byword, is not only here to stay permanently but has now earned its place in society as a social class and as a community, as well; afforded by some countries with civil rights and statutes decriminalizing homosexuality while in others, legalizing same-sex marriage.

In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed its first resolution recognizing LGBT rights and the UN Human Rights Commission urged all countries which had not yet done so to enact laws protecting basic LGBT rights. As of March 2017, 23 countries recognize same-sex marriage. In the United States, in June, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional – thus allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states. Evidently, while the LGBT around the world in the last decade has gained important milestones in their quest/fight for equal rights, the gender-identity rights of the Filipino LGBT community is still very much wanting.

Undeniably, “The Times They Are a-Changin.” In this life imitating art famous 60’s song of Bob Dylan, is a metaphor that indeed we just have to accept the fact that our society is gradually shedding its misconception of what defines a human being. LGBT people have existed as long as humanity itself. They have made history and important contributions even in the face of societies that discriminate against them or pretend they do not exist. We have famous LGBT figures throughout time who have changed the world for the better, such as, Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Anderson Cooper, Angelina Jolie, Freddie Mercury, Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Michael Kors, Giorgo Armani, Madonna, David Geffen, and surprisingly, even Abraham Lincoln. In the Philippines, we have notable LGBT celebrities, such as, Boy Abunda, Ricky Reyes, Monique Wilson, Vice Ganda, Aiza Seguerra, and Mocha Uson.
As a result of this dynamic social revolution; concomitantly, as a nation, instead of outrightly being prejudicial and judgmental towards the LGBT community, there is a need for us to recalibrate our social, cultural and moral perceptions, and even convictions, including revisiting our understanding of our faith concerning gender identity. Nothing better capsulizes this social activism than in the landmark case of Ang Ladlad LGBT Party v. COMELEC, where the highest court of the land, Supreme Court, said: “practical solutions are preferable to ideological stalemates; accommodation is better than intransigence; reason more worthy than rhetoric. This will allow persons of diverse viewpoints to live together, if not harmoniously, then, at least, civilly.”

With that being said, on the issue of LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, it would be wise for President Rodrigo Duterte, and the members of both houses of Congress, neither to thrust nor to lean-on their political ideology to their political base on this issue. More so, to debate this matter in the court of public opinion. And for the homophobic citizens amongst us, let’s likewise avoid pontificating and litigating this issue. Instead, we should submit this highly sensitive issue to the Filipino people in a non-partisan way through a nationwide referendum-plebiscite in the next 2019 national election. And on the issue of GRANTING CIVIL RIGHTS TO THE LGBT COMMUNITY, it is high time for President Rodrigo Duterte in his upcoming 3rd SONA to certify a bill as Urgent to both houses of Congress to legislate an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination law that protects the rights of the LGBT in the workplace, both in public and private establishments. To use the words of civil rights activist and global advocate of human rights, Nelson Mandela, “To deny the people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”


Note from Y. A. “Joey” Tugung: Modesty aside, I am an expert on the subject on harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In fact, I conduct seminars on a regular basis on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prevention training. Moreover, other than enforcing the same, I also conduct investigations on allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. Since I come home to the Philippines annually, and for those who are interested, I am offering my services to conduct this seminar on the subject for FREE. This would be a half-day seminar and it already covers Q & A.



truly. and with due respect to lgbts, i'm just wondering here why laws still have to be made specifically for them when they are already covered by existing human rights laws, which do not at all discriminate against them. why aim for "special treatment" when that in itself is already discriminatory because it means they're being regarded as different?


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