Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Same-Sex Marriage and the Philippines

Posted by butalidnl on 2 June 2012

President Obama recently declared his support for same-sex marriage. This will undoubtably affect the results of the US elections – but exactly how, is anyone’s guess. The same-sex marriage issue has changed a lot in the US since 2004, when George Bush succesfully painted John Kerry as pro-same-sex marriage, and won the election.

One effect of Obama’s declaration has hit the Romney campaign. Bill White, a prominent gay supporter of Romney, withdrew his support and demanded to get his contribution back. He said that Romeny had “chosen to be in the wrong side of history”. He is now supporting Obama.

Prime Minister Cameron of the UK declared that his support of same-sex marriage is not despite his being a conservative, but because he is a conservative. Cameron makes an important point. Same-sex marriage is in reality a conservative demand. In an era when many people have divorces, and others decide to forego getting married in the first place; gays want to get married – and commit themselves to abide by societal conventions in the process.

Philippine Case
While same-sex marriage is not yet an immediate concern for the Philippines, it raises points which are already relevant. Among these would be the question of what to do with gays who do form lasting relationships. Even from a purely legal point of view, it would be a lot more convenient if gay couples could get into something like a ‘registered partnership’ if only for matters like inheritance, medical decisions etc.

At the same time, there should be some changes in the legal status of some heterosexual relationships. Under the principle that “consenting adults who love each other should be allowed to marry”, the country would need to pass a Divorce Law. And, together with this, there would need to be a law that allows unmarried couples who live together to formalize their relationship.

The issue of same-sex marriage also affects the public discourse about gays. Previously, gay rights meant that it is wrong to beat up gays, or to refuse to hire them. Gay rights includes their right to lead a ‘normal’ life, including marriage.

The case of Manny Pacquiao’s comments against same-sex marriage illustrates this point. He was quickly painted as being anti-gay, when all he said was that he was against same-sex marriage. Why? Because now, gay rights  includes the recognition of same-sex couples, and giving them equivalent rights to heterosexual couples. Pacquiao upheld the old version of gay rights.

There could also be an effect on the nature of same-sex relationships themselves. Today, a lot of same-sex couples in the Philippines mimic heterosexual relationships in the sense that one takes on a ‘male’ role, while the other a ‘female’ role. The development of ideas about same-sex marriage will challenge this ‘quasi-hetero’ arrangement. Same-sex partners would then increasingly adopt ‘unisex’ roles.

The whole idea that gays make up a ‘third sex’ should also fade as a result of the discourse on same-sex marriage. With the ‘third sex’ idea, some men claim that they are not gay because they take on the male role in a gay relationship, which is perfectly logical in a ‘third sex’ framework. But with same-sex marriage, the relationship is simply between two men, or two women.

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