A Glimpse of Lobbying for Marriage Equality

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By Eva Callueng, Contributor

Last Saturday, the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Quezon City held a forum on Marriage Equality. It was attended by active community individuals who sought more knowledge of how to defend its legal merits and master its human-rights aspects. Atty. Claire Padilla of EnGendeRights Inc. headed the discussion, while Rev. Ceejay Agbayani moderated the forum.

The same sex unions held in Baguio City last June 25 garnered a lot of reactions from different sectors, coinciding with the passage of the Equal Marriage Protection Act in New York City. Discussions flooded different social media sites, while TV interviews of those who officiated the ceremonies were bombarded with calls and online reactions. On a separate note, the Baguio City Council began preparing a resolution declaring those involved (pastors, same sex couples) as Persona Non-Grata (PNG).

Atty. Padilla’s presentation included international trends and recent developments in this advocacy, showing how legal battles are paving the way for the establishment of such even in countries that are dominantly Roman Catholic.

The open forum drew heavily on the perceived readiness of the community for a proposal like this, as well as the steps the LGBT community should first complete before going all out for the issue. During the exhange of opinions, the experiences of the RH bill advocacy were brought into the picture. It was used to show how the Catholic hierarchy has been reactive to any of the bills that are included in the so-called ‘D.E.A.T.H. Bills’ (Divorce, Euthanasia, Abortion, Total Contraception, Homosexuality).

One participant commented that even with the alarming statistics provided to support the passage of the RH bill, legislators have remained either undecided or silent about it. Using the same premise, lobbying for equal marriage protection now seems to be not in sync.

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In the first place, the Philippines has not yet included sexual orientation and gender identity in our legislative language. It would certainly be very hard to introduce marriage equality without first aknowledging that some people are discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The country has yet to pass a law protecting LGBT people from prejudice and discrimination, resulting in unequal access to basic opportunities and services. Further, the Anti-Discrimination Bill is already more than a decade old in Congress.

The second concern is the confusion of interchangeably used terms, such as marriage to holy unions invoking legal recognition, and freedom to practice one’s religion. While the MCC claims that what they are officiating are practices consistent with their beliefs, some people still use their religious convictions to condemn the former.

As a community, the forum served as a venue for understanding everyone’s positions. Some didn’t believe this is the proper time to lobby for marriage equality, while others thought that in advocating, one should always lobby for maxims and ideals. While not everyone agreed about the definition of the ‘right timing’ for lobbying for this advocacy, everyone agreed to consistently lobby for a society where people should all be equal regardless of any classifications, and where discrimination has no place.

At the end of the forum, the participants learned one more important thing: the presence of other colors composing the rainbow. It demonstrates how varied hues are, and like the colors in the spectrum, people will always hold different values and perspectives on issues. Those differences should be valued in the same way that we value our similarities.

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