It’s Pride Month, and a good time to discuss the poll about same-sex unions that appeared on the House of Representatives website last month.
When I looked last week, ‘yes’ had 464,690 votes or 64 percent of 723,608 total votes. ‘No’ votes were 256,532 (35 percent) while ‘undecided’ was at 2,386 votes.
As I wrote in my previous column, ‘Fighting an invisible war,’ LGBT rights are a contentious issue in this country. “Congress recently posted a poll on their website asking the public’s opinion on same-sex unions as civil partnerships… The week the poll came out, people on both sides of the fence rallied supporters to vote. I got messages asking me to choose ‘no’—one was from a Roman Catholic nun.”
Regarding the poll itself as a form of feedback, it can be considered a tentative step in the right direction, because it seeks to gauge public opinion on the matter and complete the communication cycle.
Before the Internet, feedback was always difficult to obtain, unless one conducted costly and time-consuming surveys.
But the poll, however interesting it might be as a platform for people’s voices, should not be the basis for deciding on legislation.
First, being online, it is not accessible to everyone who has a stake in the decision. Second, there is always the possibility that ‘bots’ and hackers will influence the numbers.
Lawmakers will still have to use their judgment, based on hard evidence, data, and sound and logical reasoning (hopefully). Take Taiwan as an example. The island nation passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage last month. Last December, they conducted a controversial referendum on the matter, and 67 percent voted against.
Yet the Taiwanese solons still passed the law and consequently made history as the first country in Asia to allow same-sex marriage, claiming a victory for LGBT rights.
As Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted: “Today we have a chance to make history and show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society.”
Conservatives often cite religious reasons for their opposition to same-sex marriage. As with sex-related issues such as contraception and abortion, they anchor their arguments on scripture or other religious texts and pronouncements. Lawmakers who take religion for their touchstone are flouting the Constitutional proviso on the separation of Church and State.
Here’s a sample of a decision that shows why religion is not a humanitarian basis for lawmaking.
Last April, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced the penalty of death by stoning for those convicted of sex between men, based on the Shari’a, Islamic law grounded on the Qur’an. In the face of global outcry, the sultan has since said the death penalty will not be imposed, although the law has not been repealed.
Reason and logic should be the sole basis for decision-making, tempered by compassion and justice. It should be obvious to all that it is unfair that the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples throughout history have endured the same challenges that straight couples do, but without legal protection.
Same-sex marriage will allow gay couples the right to inherit, adopt children, and act and decide for their spouse in cases of emergency, among other actions. It will allow those living outside of marriage to have that grand ceremony and celebration they’ve been dreaming of. It lets them be free to love, raise a family, and work for their future under the protection of the State.
How is this bad?
For those against, here’s one way to look at same-sex unions: You don’t like gay marriages? Then don’t get gay married. No one’s forcing you to.
How far has the struggle for marriage equality in the Philippines come?
Congress’ online poll was to gauge public sentiment about a proposal in that body for same-sex unions as civil partnerships. To clarify, civil unions are not considered marriage equality. The poll did not specify the proposal it referred to.
However, there have been several measures proposed in Congress. In 2011, Bohol Rep. Rene Relampagos sought the recognition of same-sex marriages overseas, through House Bill No. 4269. In 2017, Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) pushed for House Bill No. 6595, the Civil Partnership Act.
There are two other bills on the matter, one authored by Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, and the other by Rep. Pia Cayetano. Both measures were consolidated but the new bill is still pending in Congress.
Various activist groups have had same-sex marriage on their agenda for years, but in 2015, someone finally went the legal route. LGBT lawyer Jesus Falcis filed a petition to the Supreme Court asking that it declare Family Code Articles 1 and 2, that define marriage as between a male and female, as unconstitutional.
He also asked for the nullification of Articles 46(4) and 55(6) of the Family Code, which include homosexuality or lesbianism as legal grounds for annulment and legal separation.
This Pride Month, expect the LGBTI community and their straight allies to continue fighting for this basic and inalienable right to be made available to all who need it, so that our society may become truly just, fair, and humanitarian.
Open up your eyes and you will see / Love is love is everything to me Culture Club /FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO