Monday, October 13, 2014

A Crack in the Door: The Same-Sex Marriage Challenge


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Two news items caught my attention lately. Both news were about support for same-sex marriage. 

According to the first news, “Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista has expressed his support for same-sex marriage” (Source: Inquirer.Net). In his State of the City address, Mayor Bautista declared his dream: “I look forward to the day the Philippines or Quezon City will have an equality marriage ordinance.” (Ibid) 

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When I read the news, I confess the first word that entered my mind was, “Votes.” Why? It appeared to me he just made those grand statements to merely court the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) votes. Before my LGBT friends jump for joy, keep in mind that the mayor could not do anything about same-sex marriage beyond words (read: praise release) at the moment. Though the mayor said he is open to officiate such unions, he also admitted, “I need to do some research on whether that’s allowed.” (Ibid)

It was all talk. The Family Code of the Philippines defined marriage as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life.” (Offical Gazette. Emphasis added) So, the mayor could not even mouth about solemnizing such unions because, as far as the Code is concerned, “No marriage shall be valid, unless these essential requisites are present: (1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female…” (Ibid. Emphasis added.)

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However, the second news made me sit straight. Apparently, the Family Code itself is being deemed obsolete. Pacifico Agabin, an ex-UP College of Law dean, opined “the Family Code of the Philippines needed updating, especially its provisions on marriage.” (GMA News Online) According to Agabin, “The Family Code’s concept of marriage as a contract between a man and a woman aside from being obsolete, violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution… In my opinion, to bar the lesbians, the gays, the transsexuals and homosexuals from the civil right to marry would violate the guarantee of equal protection” (Ibid). (Agabin shared his opinion in reaction to the recent lecture of retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Vitug on “Coping with Developing Landscape in Civil Law” at the Court of Appeals.)

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Though Vitug admits “it will take time before I could change my mind on the concept of both sexes being married”, he “stressed that property rights between members of the same sex should be recognized in the Philippines. …  there are really two relationships that you talk about when there is marriage… One is the personal relationship of the party and the second would be the property relations” (Ibid). As far as property relationship, Vitug thinks the Code provisions on unmarried couples should be applied to the same-sex relationships. 
(The idea of extending property rights to LGBTs) is something not entirely new here. Tsaka mayroon tayong ibang laws. [“Also, we have other laws.”] We have joint ventures. We have partnerships which are there already. So it is not totally new. (Ibid) 

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This “property relationship” could be the proverbial foot-in-the-door as far as the issue of legalizing same-sex unions in the Philippines is concerned. If the LGBT community files a petition to the Supreme Court, Vitug sees that as the crucial issue. “If this goes to the Supreme Court, they cannot deny a decision because there should be law. It is possible that they may touch on that property relationship.” (Ibid) 

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As to whether such unions would be allowed or not in this predominantly Roman Catholic nation is anybody’s guess. I think everybody agrees it will be an uphill climb or a protracted legal battle. Yet, there’s no denying that the door is already pried open. When a proposal to revise the Code snowballs in the Congress or, as Vitug said, someone petitions the Supreme Court, that could swing it wide. 

However, before we Christians holler, shouting “That’s immoral!” let me first quote the late Chuck Colson who wrote in his “The Gay ‘Marriage’ Debate,” 
We Christians are very good at saying “No.’” We’ve got to better saying “Yes”: showing how God’s plan for humanity is a blessing: That His ways — including faithful, live-giving marriage between one man and one woman — lead to human flourishing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. (Breakpoint. Emphasis added.)
More than just saying “No” to same-sex union, we should also say “Yes” to Biblical marriage. 

[Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6, ESV Image credit

In one of my blog articles I proposed the “Attract, Not Attack” approach as a better way of saying “Yes.”
I think we should concentrate on strengthening the Filipino family. When we call people to abandon their [LGBT] lifestyle, what do we offer as an alternative? If they look at our marriages, would they like what they see? Or, would they say, “I think I prefer mine over yours”? Would they see that call as a jump from the frying pan to the fire? Or, would they see it as a better, if not the best, choice over what they are enjoying now? When we practice what we preach, we could preach what we practice. We earn the right to be heard. … I believe we should attract, not attack. We should pull, not push. We can be aggressive without being abrasive. (Emphasis added)
By all means, we should not lose by default. We should all engage this same-sex union issue, expressing our views to sway public opinion and to shape whatever laws would come out. Yet, we should do more than that. We should not end up winning the debate but losing the soul. 

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We need to remember that a judgmental spirit is as much a sin as immorality. As Dr. William Lane Craig concluded in his “A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality,” 
We need to accept and lovingly support brothers and sisters who are struggling with this problem. And in general, we need to extend God’s love to homosexual people. Vulgar words or jokes about homosexuals should never pass the lips of a Christian. If you find yourself feeling glad when some affliction befalls a homosexual person or you find feelings of hatred welling up in your heart toward homosexual people, then you need to reflect long and hard on the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew: “it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgement for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you” (Mt. 10.15; 11.24). (Reasonable Faith. Emphasis added.)

Let us be firm in our stance but loving in our response.