Still stuck in the Dark Ages?
Most Filipinos are keen on preserving stereotypical “traditional marriage”, with 84% of Filipinos opposing passing a law allowing same-sex marriage in the Philippines, according to the Standard Poll.
To be more specific, of the 1,500 respondents from all over the Philippines, 14% somewhat disagreed, and 70% strongly disagreed with passing a law allowing same-sex marriage in the Philippines. The opposition was strongest in Northern and Central Luzon at 92%; with more residents in rural areas rejecting same-sex marriage (87%) than those living in urban areas (80%). Also, more mature respondents reject same-sex marriage (85%) than the younger respondents (81%).
“Sadly, it is no surprise that 84% percent of the people in (this) survey oppose equal marriage for LGBT people. It’s just one more in a long line of equal rights denied because of the negative teachings of churches which teach ‘Don’t love the one you love’,” Rev. Fr. Richard Mickley, OSAe, Ph.D., coordinator of The Well, said.
Murphy Red of Kapederasyon agreed with Mickley.
“In a country populated with 90% Christians, dominated by 80.6% Roman Catholics, disapproval of same-sex marriage by the vast majority of its citizens is not at all surprising. As a matter of fact, albeit jubilation of LGBT communities worldwide over same-sex marriage legalization that spread like wildfire to various countries around the globe in recent months, prevailing perception of same-sex marriage as unthinkable as far as its integration in Filipino culture remains oblivious. This is mainly due to three centuries of patriarchal autocracy under Spanish colonial rule that solidified abhorrence of anything homosexual in the Filipino psyche, fortified by another hundred years of American chauvinist assimilation that pigeonholed homosexual odds and ends into tolerable stereotypes. All in all, these translated into express detestation of marriages deviant to age-old heteronormative archetype so that same-sex marriage is deemed sinful thus despised as evil and consequently forbidden,” Murphy Red said.
Mickley linked the poll result with the recent development in Ireland, where the Catholic people voted on May 22 to legalize same-sex marriage.
“Frankly, they have the same poisoned prejudice (from the) pulpits. So we can only logically conclude that they had the guts to form their conscience and vote according to adult, mature thinking. They had the common sense to think it through,” Mickley said. Unfortunately, “we don’t have the mechanism to measure the guts, the courage, the adult mature thinking ability of the Filipino people. The Irish people displayed their maturity in no uncertain terms.”
Anne Lim of GALANG Philippines, noted the “the nature and scope of this survey, and the lack of insights available regarding the questionnaire and the methodologies used”. As such, “we find it difficult to comment extensively on the survey results. It would have helped if, for instance, there were publicly available information about how the survey defined ‘marriage’, i.e, whether it was defined as a legal concept or as a religious one.”
Lim added: “Some news portals zeroed in on the section of the survey regarding same-sex marriage, and linked this with reactions from social media. We feel that setting the poll results against the backdrop of social media will only muddle up the issue of marriage equality. The use of statements like ‘The majority of responses to the survey on social media supported the findings’ is not helpful in providing readers with reliable interpretations of the said report since views aired in these platforms are hardly representative of a cross-section of Philippine society.”
RECOGNITION OF RELATIONSHIPS
For Michael David dela Cruz Tan, editor of Outrage Magazine, the question posited by the survey (on same-sex marriage) is simply “sabay sa uso (goes with what is trendy)” because of the recent developments in mostly Western countries. “Truth be told, even LGBT people in the Philippines are not united on this,” he said.
However, “while we don’t see eye to eye on being able to marry as defined by churches, LGBT people in the Philippines recognize the need for our relationships to be legally recognized.”
Tan cited the 2014 policy audit of lesbian-led feminist human rights organization GALANG Philippines, which cited as an example two lesbian-headed households in an informal settlement (i.e. “squatters’ area”) who were not relocated because their relationships were not seen as valid. One of the couples composed of an elderly couple who had lived together as informal settlers for more than two decades, “but they were effectively made invisible by the decision based on the heteronormative definition of beneficiaries for relocation,” Tan said.
Tan added that the “Philippines continues to give more value to heterosexual relationships – even to those who did not marry, or live under a void marriage.”
Article 147 of the Family Code states:
“In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.”
“You ask LGBT Filipinos to pay taxes, abide by the rules of the land, et cetera – and yet, even as we do, you continue treating us as second class citizens by depriving us the rights you give to others simply because of who they choose to love. That – plain and simple – is discriminatory,” Tan said.
ELEVATE THE DISCUSSION
Murphy Red said that “confronted with this (discriminatory) way of thinking, the proper thing for the Filipino LGBT to do is to elevate the struggle for human rights to the plane of social equality and escalate it to the altitude of gender justice. The issue of same-sex marriage must therefore be derestricted from the bounds of debates, surveys or polls and expanded to the (various) spheres.”
First, “the marriage equality struggle of the LGBT community is not directed towards the church. It is directed towards the State. Same-sex marriage does not automatically mean walking down the aisle of the Roman Catholic Church. Let the Catholic tradition stay a Catholic tradition.”
Second, “same-sex marriage does not always apply to the ‘T’ in the LGBT. Transgender people tend to choose along heterosexual lines. To be more specific, a transgender woman is a woman, not a man. The same is true for transgender men.”
And third, “while it is true that the US Supreme Court decision is viewed positively by the LGBT community, we know that if applied to the Philippines, it will be an empty victory since the LGBT-oppressive/exploitative socio-economic and political structures remain in place. Just imagine, okay ka na ngang magpakasal, pero humiliated and denied entry ka pa rin sa mga clubs; subjected ka pa rin sa discrimination; at biktima ka pa rin ng tumitinding hate crimes. Or walang trabaho, gutom ka pa.”
“It is said that women hold half the sky. Isn’t it time everyone realized that the sky has a glass ceiling that needs to be shattered so that all of us, LGBT people and heterosexual people, can hold the sky equally — without duress, exploitation, and oppression?” Murphy Red said.
EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE
Bemz Benedito, former first nominee of political party Ladlad, said that there is a need to “examine the methodology and questions conducted in the study.”
Directed by Pedro Laylo Jr., the Standard poll involved 300 adult respondents each from the National Capital Region, North/Central Luzon, South Luzon/Bicol, Visayas, and Mindanao. Conducted from May 8 to 18, it had error margins of +/-2.6 percent for the national result, and +/-6 percent for the results by major areas.
All the same, Benedito expressed her dismay at the result of the poll, stating that “it is a clear indication that the intolerant Roman Catholic Church has won in their war on perception against LGBT Filipinos.”
For Mickley, “this country has shown its lack of moral fortitude for more than a decade and a half in not even granting Filipino LGBT people the protection of law against discrimination in employment, housing, and everyday life,” he said.
Mickley, nonetheless, stated that “not all Christians persecute LGBT people.”
To this end, Benedito stressed the necessity “for us… to continue educating the public that what we are after is not to walk down the aisle of the discriminatory Roman Catholic Church, but for the law and the State to recognize same-sex couples and accord them the same rights and privileges being enjoyed by heterosexual couples.”
“As always, we should continue to take strategic steps to counteract negative stereotypes about the LGBT sector, our families, and our lives. To do this, advocates and supporters of equal rights should continue the national and local policy advocacy work that we have collectively undertaken tirelessly since the 1990s. Laws seeking to protect LGBT people should be passed immediately to protect them from discrimination, violence, and exclusion from development. Policies that perpetuate stigma and heteronormativity should be amended and revised through the most expedient means possible, whether through the Judiciary or the Legislature. Additionally, we should optimize existing gender and development related laws, plans, policies, and programs of the government that promote equal rights for all,” Lim said.
RIGHTS ARE RIGHTS
“The LGBT community should remain vigilant and unperturbed in our fight to equal rights. Surveys like this one should push us harder in intensifying our information and education campaigns about LGBT rights,” Benedito said.
Benedito added that “the LGBT agenda should not be reduced to same-sex marriage. It is not the be-all and end-all of our struggle because that is only one of the basic human rights that is being taken away from us. We have long been suffering from discrimination on the basis of SOGIE in the school, workplace and public establishments; hate crimes; non-recognition of our gender identity; and other socio-economic and political issues. We must continue positively campaigning on same-sex marriage as protection of LGBT couples and not to convert the dogma of any church. We respect their stand and we do not wish to be wed in their spaces as well. What we are fighting is what is just in the eyes of the law and not in the eyes of the bible.”
For Outrage Magazine’s Tan, the result of the poll becomes irrelevant in the context of human rights advocacy. “Just because a lot of people do not agree with what’s right, does not make that a wrong. Discrimination is discrimination, period,” he said.
For Lim, “the situation of the LGBT sector is not likely to change drastically overnight even if the laws were changed. Stigma, discrimination, and violence against the LGBT sector can be countered only if legal change is coupled with continuous awareness-raising and community education that promote positive images of the LGBT sector. It is a must that we as advocates and supporters continue to strengthen and capacitate our ranks, and develop second-, third-, fourth-liners who will challenge homophobia and heteronormative biases among ourselves and in mainstream society. To do this, we need to continuously provide safe spaces where LGBT youth can flourish, accept themselves, build confidence, discover their potentials, and be able to fully participate and contribute to development initiatives in the community-at-large.”
“On the universally accepted principle that the rights of the minority should not be decided by the majority, the disagreement of the bigger portion of the population should not overturn the birthright of the smaller component over a civil right supposedly as encompassing as matrimony,” Murphy Red ended. – WITH INTERVIEWS BY MDCTAN
ARTICLE AMENDED ON AUGUST 3, 2015 TO INCLUDE THE STATEMENTS FROM ANNE LIM OF GALANG PHILIPPINES