"Male and female are not arbitrary, socially imposed constructs. They are rooted in our biology."
When the framers of the 1987 Constitution decided to preface our country’s foundational document with a prayer, “imploring the aid of the Almighty God,” it established firmly the role of religion in Philippine democracy. Therefore, to say that the Philippines is a purely secular state is, to say the least, inaccurate.
In the middle of the maelstrom brought about by the debates on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill now pending in Congress, proponents of the measure are often quick to dismiss that doctrinal or theological positions have no place in the shaping our country’s laws. The constitutional principle of separation of Church and State is often misquoted as to mean that a strict divide between matters of faith—and that of public life.
Present statistics affirm this fact. More than 80 percent of the country’s population is Catholic. Consequently, the majority of them are presumed to espouse their religion’s doctrinal and moral teachings. Therefore, Catholicism is a sure standard by which to shape public legislation that is morally acceptable to most, if not the majority, of Filipinos today.
The doctrine of benevolent neutrality, which former Chief Justice Renato Puno succinctly defined in his landmark 2003 decision, Estrada v. Escritor, “recognizes that government must pursue its secular goals and interests but at the same time strives to uphold religious liberty to the greatest extent possible within flexible constitutional limits.” Therefore, while the country’s law reflect a secular view of morality, faith-based morality could be accommodated as it as long as it does not offend compelling state interests.
Many of my friends identify themselves as LGBTQ, and many of them know and respect my position on the SOGIE bill, which is one that is consistent with my Catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states, “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (CCC 2357)”
The same document, however, continues, “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. (CCC 2358)”
The Church, therefore, is clear on one thing—persons who identify themselves as LGBTQ must be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and to discriminate against LGBTQ persons goes against the heart of the Christian message.
Last April, Pope Francis received in a private audience noted British gay comedian Stephen K. Amos. speaking through an interpreter, the pope said “Giving more importance to the adjective rather than the noun, this is not good. We are all human beings and have dignity. It does not matter who you are or how you live your life, you do not lose your dignity. There are people that prefer to select or discard people because of the adjective - these people don’t have a human heart.”
The proposed SOGIE equality measure in Congress, in my opinion, does exactly the opposite—it puts importance on the adjective, the label, ahead of the fact that all human beings are all entitled to same and equal human rights. For example, the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos are already guaranteed and protected by the country’s existing civil, criminal and even labor laws, including the Bill of Rights enumerated in the Constitution. So, it makes me wonder, what other rights of LGBTQ persons would require legal protection?
This begs the question whether legislating a SOGIE Equality Bill is still needed, so whether it will result in reverse discrimination, where preferential rights are given to a minority population who were previously thought to be discriminated against, but to the disadvantage of the majority who adhere to an opposing position. Passing the SOGIE Equality would institutionalize bias against position of the country’s Catholic majority in respect to the morality of homosexual acts.
The key question about incorporating SOGIE equality into our legal framework is the dispute on an objective categorization of sexual orientation and gender identity. Passing anti-discrimination statutes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity lacks objective criteria for legislation. Note that the SOGIE bill makes it illegal for a parent to ask their son or daughter to take a medical or psychological exam, to address that person’s gender or sexual orientation. Therefore, would it is wise to craft public policy on a view of sexuality and gender identity that is subject to possible fluctuation?
Clearly, the SOGIE bill teaches a view of human embodiment that is contrary to Christian principles. Christianity embraces the body and soul as an integrated whole; each person is a unique creation who was created male or female. Male and female are not arbitrary, socially imposed constructs. They are rooted in our biology. In contrast, the thinking behind the SOGIE Equality Bill assumes an “expressive individualism” where our bodies become instruments of the will (products of the will), capable of being re-created according to preference and desire.
[To be continued]