Last June, the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to strike down state bans on same-sex marriages sparked interest worldwide. For instance, in the Philippines, individuals discussed their differing opinions regarding the possibility of making same-sex marriages legal in the country. During the same month, on June 27, the 21st Metro Manila Pride March was held at Luneta Park.
While the conduct and recognition of same-sex marriage is the more prominent issue within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, it is not the only one. Other global LGBT issues include the legality of sexual activity between same-sex individuals, adoption by same-sex couples, LGBT individuals serving in the military openly, discrimination against LGBT individuals, and gender expression.
In the Philippine context
In 2013, Pew Research Center in its survey “The Global Divide on Homosexuality” found that the Philippines was leaning closer to acceptance of homosexuality in this divide. The survey revealed that 73 percent of Filipinos believe that homosexuality should be accepted.
While the Philippines has received praise for being named as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Filipino LGBT community still faces issues, and many of Filipino LGBT individuals still clamor for equal rights and anti-discriminatory laws, among others.
Pew Research Center found 73 percent of adult Filipinos agreed with the statement, “Homosexuality should be accepted by society,” a statement that is nothing more than wishful thinking.
Filipino LGBT individuals enjoy few protections like the decriminalization of same-sex sexual activity and the military allowing them to serve openly. Despite these, they cannot go into marriage or have their marriage contracted in another country be legally recognized in the Philippines. Additionally, same-sex couples cannot legally adopt children, and national laws addressing sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) are absent.
However, local ordinances tackling SOGI discrimination have been enacted in Quezon City, Cebu, Davao and Albay. Meanwhile, House Bill 5686, a national SOGI anti-discrimination bill, has been languishing in the House of Representatives since it was approved at the committee-level in February 2015.
Lasallians on LGBT issues
In a survey conducted by The LaSallian, 352 respondents were asked regarding their opinions on certain LGBT issues. With an average grading of 3.48 (1 indicating strongly disagree and 4 indicating strongly agree), most respondents appeared to be in favor of passing anti-discrimination laws concerning sexual identity.
LGBT issues regarding recognition of same-sex marriages and partnerships, adoption by same-sex couples, and SOGI laws all received an average above three. This number shows a significant amount of respondents being in favor of improving the LGBT community’s standing in these areas, especially in terms of anti-discrimination laws in the country with over 85 percent of Lasallians indicating a rating of 3 or 4.
However, the question regarding the Philippines allowing same-sex marriage in received the lowest average of 2.89, with only 68.18 percent of Lasallians indicating a score of 3 and 4. The responses and opinions of the students greatly varied on this highly controversial issue.
Some students felt that marriage is a right that should be bestowed on both hetero- and homosexual couples. *Jamie, a second-year Business student, shares, “I strongly believe that same-sex marriage should be legalized and recognized in [this] country. These couples deserve to have the rights given to couples who are of the opposite sex.”
Veronica Rodriguez (II, AB-ISE), echoes the same sentiments. She expresses, “As individuals and human beings capable of loving and acquiring all sorts of feelings, anyone should be able to love and marry who they want, regardless of sexual orientation.”
Others do not believe that the Philippines should follow other countries into legalizing same-sex marriage. A great percentage of these students reasoned that religion and religious institutions remain a contributing factor for their disapproval for same-sex marriage. For instance, *Robert, a freshman Business student, shares that his non-support for same-sex marriage is deeply rooted in the Bible and its teachings.
Aside from same-sex marriage, many students had an opinion on having a law protecting SOGI. Many stated that before having same-sex marriage legalized, there must already be a culture of acceptance established for LGBT individuals.
*Catherine, a second-year Liberal Arts student who identifies as a bisexual woman, claims that LGBT rights are a ‘first-world’ issue. She reasons that “the masses need to be taught on equality, acceptance, open-mindedness, media-literacy, and logical reasoning” before pushing for other issues.
LGBT community in DLSU
Over the years, the LGBT community in DLSU has taken steps to uphold their rights within the University. In 2011, Queer Archer’s Alliance, the first LGBT organization in DLSU, was founded. Since then, marches, advocacy talks, and other events have been held on campus to bring attention to their cause.
Vani Altomonte (VI, AB-CAM), former president of Queen Archers’ Alliance, commends the University’s efforts on educating the student body about human sexuality, citing their inclusion in Gender Studies (GENDERS) and Theology and Religious Education (TRED) courses. Aside from the efforts of the University, Altomonte believes that most of the students within the University are open-minded and understanding in regards to the LGBT community. However, he does acknowledge that a significant number of students do not give their full support.
Altomonte remarks that while he has observed a majority of Lasallians expressing opposition to discrimination being faced by the LGBT community, “[it is] not enough that they would support our (LGBT) right to marry who we love.” He explains, “It’s like they are acknowledging us as human beings that are to be respected, but they don’t see the importance of our right to marriage.”
“You don’t have to call it marriage. It can be something like marriage, and we can have the rights of a married couple. Just let us have our union. Let us be legal.” — QAA’s Vani Altomonte stated last year.
Altomonte emphasizes that the future of the rights of the LGBT community heavily relies on the people elected into the government. However, he shares his belief that changes similar to the SCOTUS ruling should take place in the Philippines.
“I believe that a government should make sure that the rights of every single person that it serves are fought for and protected,” Altomonte expresses. “It shouldn’t matter if you come from a minority group in your population,” he furthers, stating that the government must make sure that rights of the LGBT should be equal to those of any other citizen.
DLSU as a Catholic university
When asked about the students’ opinions differing with official Church teaching regarding same-sex marriage, TRED Department Chair Dr. Rito Baring states, “[With DLSU being] a Catholic university, we try to observe the norms and doctrines promoted by the Church.”
But Dr. Baring assures that the good thing about the Catholic Church is that it is a very accommodating church. “In fact, the mission or orientation of the Church is to welcome and to invite,” he explains.
Dr. Baring believes that as students in a Catholic institution, one of the basic things Lasallians can do is to inform people of the love of God, which is undiscriminating. He also states that by keeping an open mind, students can be more informed regarding LGBT issues.
A continuing discussion
The results and opinions from the survey reflect that the student body is generally in favor of supporting the LGBT community in certain issues such as anti-discrimination and same-sex partnerships. However, when it comes to same-sex marriage, there is no clear inclination of the DLSU community.
Both sides in support or against the issue hold firmly to their respective stands regarding same-sex marriage. The lack of a consensus shows that there is still much to be discussed before this issue can be resolved.
*Names were changed to protect the identity of the subjects.