A hot topic these days is the proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality (SOGIE) bill that has been passed by the lower house as House Bill 4982 (HB4982) in 2017 and is awaiting deliberation and passing in the Senate of its equivalent as Senate Bill 159 (SB159). The battle and push for the Senate, the only one holding out against the passage of this bill before it becomes a law since the President already expressed support for it, is getting fierce. It is good to understand what the bill says, and the implications to the FIlipino family and society if it is passed.
In the explanatory note of SB159, cases of discrimination experienced by those in the LGBTQ community are used as emotional selling point. The LGBTQ community also plays up similar cases in the media. Even if our country has shown tolerance of LGBTQ individuals and even idolized those who have done well in their fields, others have not been as fortunate. However, HB4982 and now SB159 are quite sweeping in their statements that cause alarm to our predominantly religious Filipinos. It is good to consider the issues of contention of the said bills. This will not be tackled in one article alone but in several articles.
First is the issue of equality and discrimination. The bills fight for the rights of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers (LGBTQ) to be treated equally with straight people and not be discriminated against. However, there are particular concerns raised by the religious and straight sectors that seek to uphold the biblical view of humanity as created male and female, of marriage between man and woman as sacred, and of the warnings when one turns away from God and His design resulting in aberrations including same-sex relations (Romans 1-3). Of particular concerns are HB4982 Section 4 and SB159 Section 5 specifying Discriminatory Practices as follows
(a) Promote and encourage stigma on the basis of SOGIE in the media, in educational textbooks, and other medium – which could be used to penalize Christian and religious schools that teach biblical truths and principles;
(c) Refuse admission or expel a person from any educational or training institution on the basis of SOGIE – which could penalize faith-based institutions like seminaries and Bible schools which may require adherence to their statements of faith;
(g) Deny an application for or revoke, on the basis of SOGIE, any government license, authority, clearance, permit, certification, or other similar documents necessary to exercise a profession, business, or any other legitimate calling – which could include granting marriage license for same-sex marriage (although it is stated as exemption in HB 4982, but none stated in SB159);
(h) Deny a person access to or the use of establishments, facilities, utilities or services, including housing, open to the general public on the basis of SOGIE – such as transgenders wanting to use the ladies’ toilet which was sensationalized recently, or churches being asked to host a same-sex union;
(l) Engaging in public speech meant to shame, insult, vilify or which tends to incite or normalize the commission of discriminatory practices against LGBTs, and which acts or practices in turn, intimidate them or result in the loss of their self-esteem – which could affect speaking out in churches and religious fora what the Bible says about sexual sins and immorality;
(m) Subjecting persons or groups of persons to harassment generally defined as such unwanted conduct, pattern of conduct, act, or series of acts which tend to annoy, insult, bully, demean, offend, threaten, intimidate, alarm, or create a hostile or emotionally distressing environment, or put them in fear of their safety, and which behavior is motivated in whole or in part by the offender’s bias, belief, or perception regarding the offended party’s gender, SOGIE, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct.
Such prohibited act may include physical assault, stalking, or making derogatory comments, slurs or lewd propositions, and may be conducted through any form of medium, including but not limited to, visual representation, broadcast communication, correspondence or communication through mail or any telecommunication device, or through the internet or cyberspace. There are many statements in this provision that could arm LGBTQs against anyone to express what they think and believe that may be contrary to those of the LGBTQs.
It is one thing to give LGBTQs equal opportunities and not be discriminated against, but it becomes problematic when the very thing that our Constitution guarantees (Article III Section 5) regarding “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed” is violated by this bill. Is it paranoia or do those fears have basis? (To be continued).