Abellanosa: Legalizing same-sex marriage

Fringes and frontiers

THE legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan has fanned the flames of a yet similar burning concern in the Philippines. More recently in social media, there is an apparent change of topic from the national elections to the call for greater respect of LGBTQ rights. Netizens have now been talking about the difference between “marriage” and “union.”

In a sudden twist, we have discovered the brilliance of many Filipinos in matters of faith and morals. Thousands of closet theologians and preachers are out. Defending either side of the debate, Filipinos are always at their best when arguing in social media. Certainly, nothing will ever be settled without any piece of legislation.

Whether same-sex “marriage” or “union” will be allowed in the Philippines, is something only time can tell. It will surely experience the same fate that the Reproductive Health Law went through the decades. It took changes in presidents, debates, shifting alliances in congress, power brokering even among the religious, and dirty politics included before it was finally signed by the President.

Along the way are serious matters that have to be discussed. Of course, on top of the list is whether we should make a distinction between marriage and union. Certainly there will be a clash of views because at a deeper level there has been an age-old conflict between or among various interpretations of law, rights, and religion. Part of the issue is the need to respect individual freedoms, particularly equality of persons and their right to pursuit of happiness on the one hand, and religious freedom (to believe and practice one’s belief) on the other.

There are also a lot of misconceptions about how homosexuality is viewed from a religious perspective. In the context of the Philippines, the focus always is on the stand of the Roman Catholic Church simply because its membership comprises majority of the populace. However, we should take note that even within the Catholic Church, perspectives on the issue are varied. Anyone who thinks that Church teaching on homosexuality is as simple as “black and white” basically oversimplifies a quite complicated matter in Catholic moral theology.

Though basically, there is always an official teaching and an alternative perspective on any moral issue. As far as I know, official Church teaching considers “homosexual activities” sinful. The activity is distinguished from the “orientation” which is not considered as sinful. This view is informed by and based on Natural Law, which is an equally contested philosophical view of morality. Even among Natural Law scholars or academics are differing perspectives on what constitutes “nature.”

On the other side of the spectrum are those who believe that the issue of gender and sex are not essential elements for marriage. Proponents of this view are convinced that gender and sexuality are social constructs. And because the reality of the world is getting more and more fluid then so should our practices be in the actual sphere of human relations. Many, in this camp, would even quote Pope Francis, arguing on the basis of the pontiff’s “pastoral approach” to the issue. The keyword is “respect” but only and insofar as it is favorable to those who the proponents believe to be respected.

Personally, I find those who argue on the basis of emotions dangerous. Legislation is not just an act of putting into paper something which majority of the population is clamoring for. Law is not created because majority of the people want it, rather it should be founded on norms through which society may thrive and live in harmony.

There is no conclusion on the issue as of yet. There is no question also that we need to respect persons. Allowing same-sex marriage or unions on the basis of “respect” is too simplistic an argument though. Respect comes in various forms and marriage is too delicate an institution to just be redefined or changed without the much needed serious debates and discussions.


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