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Op-Ed

Vice Ganda and the dilemma of Filipino same-sex couples

For contributing writer Mark Pere Madrona, same-sex marriage is not likely to be legalized in the Philippines anytime soon. Therefore, Filipino LGBTs in a long-term committed relationship will not be able to enjoy the legal protections of being in a duly-recognized marriage even if they are ready for it. And so, for him, the position of the likes of Vice Ganda – who expects for his partner to leave him to marry a woman – is understandable, even if sad and disappointing.

Poster for one of Vice Ganda's hyped shows

Poster for one of Vice Ganda’s much hyped shows

Vice Ganda in recent years has undoubtedly become one of the most high profile gay personalities in the Philippines. The other person that fits the description would be talk show host Boy Abunda. As early as 2010, some had described him as a “gay icon”.

The comedian, Jose Marie Viceral in real life, was interviewed in Buzz ng Bayan last March 30. There, he talked about his relationship with his boyfriend, whose real identity remains the subject of speculations to this day.

According to him, he wants his boyfriend to eventually marry a woman. He said: “Gusto ko mag-asawa siya kasi, ewan ko, feeling ko magiging masaya rin naman siya doon (I want him to get married because I think he will be happy with it).”

The “Gandang Gabi Vice” host added that he would set his partner free if and when he decides to settle down. “Kapag nag-asawa na siya, sila na. Hindi na ako hahati (When he marries, I’ll let him be. I won’t want him to divide his attention between me and his wife).

Vice Ganda may be only speaking for himself, but he must have touched a raw nerve within the Filipino LGBT community, whether they are in a relationship or not.

People in their late 20s or 30s, regardless of relationship status, are frequently asked about their marriage plans. That’s logical because we regard marriage as the final stage or the culmination of a successful relationship (as we say in Filipino, “sa hinaba-haba ng prusisyon, sa simbahan rin ang tuloy”).

However, that’s only good for heterosexual or opposite-sex couples. If you are a same-sex couple here in the Philippines, you can’t possible aspire for marriage even if you and your partner had been in a committed relationship for decades.

Imagine this: You have a partner of 15 years then suddenly, he gets gravely ill. The problem is compounded by the fact that you can’t list him as your qualified dependent in any government entitlement program like SSS, PhilHealth, or PAGIBIG.

Obviously, Philippine law doesn’t offer any legal recognition to same sex couples. In contrast, the Family Code actually offers some benefits for live-in partners, as journalist Raissa Robles pointed out back in 2011.

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the United States Supreme Court was right on the mark when she said last year that the need for same-sex marriages to be legally recognized “touch every aspect of life.”

These marriages are now recognized by their government, thanks to a historic US high court ruling last June which declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.

The 1996 law denied to same sex couples a wide array of federal government benefits, including the right to file joint tax returns and get social security privileges. And recently, it was also announced that gay couples can already apply for Medicare benefits.

Same-sex marriage is not likely to be legalized in the Philippines within this generation. Therefore, Filipino LGBTs in a long-term committed relationship will not be able to enjoy the legal protections of being in a duly-recognized marriage even if they are ready for it.

So if you cannot settle down legally with the man or woman you really love, what future lies ahead for the two of you? Ano ba ang patutunguhan ninyo? That puts Vice Ganda’s stand on marriage sad and disappointing but understandable nevertheless.

Mark Pere MadronaMark Pere Madrona is a journalism graduate from UP Diliman and is currently finishing his masters degree in history. His feature story about Filipina environmentalist Regina Paz Lopez – titled “Love for Nature that Never Ends” – is included in the “Story from the Mines – Of Struggle, Sisterhood, and Solidarity”, which was released by anti-mining group Alyansa Tigil Mina in October 2012. In 2011, he received the Best Text Blog award from the Philippine Legislators’ Committee for Population and Development (PLCPD) Foundation during the 7th Annual PopDev Media Awards. He also won the grand prize in the 2012 Energy Youth Leaders Youth Leaders. He also won in AllVoices.com’s American Pundit Competition last June 2012, the first Asian to do so. This article first appeared on his website, The Filipino Scribe, which won the Best Blog Award during the 7th annual PopDev Media Awards.

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