(Same-Sex Marriage in the Philippine Context and some Legal and Ethical Viewpoints)
What do Aiza Seguerra and Monique Wilson have in common? They are Filipina celebrities married also to Filipinas. Aiza to Liza Dino in 2014, married in the US, while Monique to Rossana Abueva in 2015, married in London.
Way Back When
In 2003, the church marriage of TV actress Desiree del Valle to a Chinese-Filipina lesbian stunned the local movie industry and the whole country into a Disney-like suspended animation. The union which took place in Las Vegas sent shivers down the spines of orthodox religion members, brought raised eyebrows from traditionalist Filipinas and elicited sarcastic grins from the multitude of insecure males. In contrast, the marriage earned the cheers and nods of the lesbian community and the emerging crowd of female bi-sexuals in the Philippines. But more than the varied reactions from numerous groups, it sparked-off debate from everyone who has his/her own view of its legality and triggered passionate arguments regarding its ethical ramifications.
The Philippines is categorized as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world and the most LGBT-friendly in Asia. Same sex marriage no longer entices fierce reactions; however, it remains a union reviled and frowned upon by Philippine society.
Legitimate or Not?
On the question of legitimacy and validity, these marriages are categorically and unquestionably a violation of the Constitution. In so far as the Civil Code of the Philippines is concerned, an essential requisite of marriage is that the contracting parties must be a male and a female. Chapter 1, Article 2 stipulates that “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, and (2) consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer.” From this proviso and the way in which it is worded, it is unmistakably clear that Philippine law recognizes unions between a male and a female ONLY (take note of the word “must” in the statement, this implies MANDATORY condition not OPTIONAL). Aside from this particular clause, the law clearly elucidates the concept of marriage and expounds on its importance as a basic institution in Filipino society. A segment of Article 1 (Chapter 1) states: “Marriage is 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……provided by this code.” What does the phrase “for the establishment of conjugal and family life” signify?
It implies begetting of children, the start of a family. If a union is composed of two males or two females, how can the purpose of reproduction, a major goal of marriage (traditionally speaking of course) be achieved? For the erudite among us, for the tenacious practitioners of unconventionality and for those who have an obsessed hatred for authority – artificial insemination and child adoption are the obvious answers to counter this particular legal clause. Frankly, yes, these remedies can be applied, but, that is another story.
Another point which makes these couples’ marriage illegal and unconstitutional is the location of where the marriage ceremony occurred. Some say that unions like these are OK because the women married in other countries, therefore, they are no longer bound and accountable by Philippine laws. This a false assumption.
The Civil Code’s law on territoriality will work against this defense. The ruling says, “laws relating to family rights and duties, or to the status, condition and legal capacity of persons are binding upon citizens of the Philippines, even though living abroad.” This means that wherever a Filipino is, Philippine law shall govern her with respect to her family rights and duties, status, condition and legal capacity. In the case of these couples, they were still governed by the laws of the Philippines although they were outside of its territorial perimeters. The only argument that can offset this is if they have renounced their citizenship.
Morality Issue, on the Rocks?
OK, same-sex marriage is illegal, it’s unconstitutional. But what about its moral implications? Is being “married” or having sex or loving someone of the same sex immoral, wicked and an evidence of a decadent lifestyle? Or of a weakening value-system among us? The concept of morality has always been a grey area for almost everyone anywhere in the world; this is precisely the reason why morality issues, of whatever nature, have remained vastly controversial. But why do people stick together even when their union happens to go against traditional or accepted principles? What is the very foundation of relationships and why do two people stay together through thick and thin, in sickness and in health and will live by the proverbial “you and me against the world” syndrome?
This is the biggest factor on why two people stick together or stay with each other. Admittedly, there are other reasons why people form relationships but love is the prime mover and the chief motivator for two people to be bonded for a lifetime. Gender has no place in a universal and abstract concept like love or emotions. When you say, “I love you” to someone, it means you feel something amazing for that person and that you want to be with that person every moment. That particular feeling is actually an “idea” that possesses no discriminating eyes telling you that the entity you are directing your affections to is a man or a woman.
Gender is incidental. When a woman feels love towards her boyfriend, that warmth or fondness is aimed at and intended for the other INDIVIDUAL, and that individual just happens to be a man. In short, real love knows no bounds – time, distance, race, religion, political beliefs, economic and social designation, and gender, most specially, should not be used as boundaries in the honest expression of emotions, specifically love. When one is in love and has plunged into an “understanding” with someone of the same sex, it doesn’t make her less of a person; it doesn’t make her decadent and/or wicked and it doesn’t make her a criminal. It only means that she followed the dictates of her heart and conscience and is willing to be accountable for the actions she has committed.
No Use Rocking the Boat
For all intents and purposes, this article is not trying to convince anyone that it is time to flaunt and shout to the whole world that you are in a same-sex relationship. Although it can be observed that in recent years, there has been a drastic change in people’s outlooks and lifestyles in the Philippines, it cannot be denied that we are still an exceedingly conformist society composed of extremely religious people. Parading and showing-off oneself as someone in a homosexual relationship is unthinkable. If one “formalizes” the relationship like what the women cited in this article did, it makes the idea more outrageous and unforgivable. Still, this article is not implying that one must be a slave to culture, follow the dictates of society or allow others to make decisions for you. It is not declaring that stranger’s opinions should play any part on how you conduct your life. The point being made here is that since we are in a social order where certain unconventional acts can touch sensibilities or hurt people we hold dearly in our lives (family and close friends), we do not have to “rock the boat.”
Meaning, if you are in love with someone belonging to the same sex, so be it. That’s your prerogative, that’s your choice, but torridly kissing her in public is a totally different matter. Hypocrisy is not what this paper is advocating. It’s talking about being honest with one’s self and being true to one’s convictions but at the same time, taking responsibility for one’s actions. We should all remember that to feel love for someone is a right and a choice. In a world full of pretenses, double-standards, duplicity, insincerity and most of the times senseless rules, we must stand out and assert ourselves in order to be true. Yes, anyone can criticize us, anyone can castigate and anyone can chastise us to no end for it is their right. But give judgment? NO WAY. No one in this world has the right to judge a fellow human being and nobody should give prescriptions on how one should live her life. Giving judgment is a terrain that belongs only to God.
Written by Gemma Minda Iso
Gemma Minda Iso, a freelance writer for over 12 years, has published one book and is about to launch her second. She does project-based in-depth research works for foreign clients, writes a column for a local newspaper and speeches for government officials and private company executives. Currently, she dabbles with her events management start-up and is kept busy with her Toastmasters International-related activities.