POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 30 March 2012, Friday
The other day I received a forwarded email. The subject was “Dump Starbucks”, and turned out to be a link to an online petition to boycott the global chain for allegedly supporting same-sex marriage in the United States.
The debate on same-sex marriage is raging in that country. The issue gained prominence in the media, with high-profile celebrities either bashing or advocating same-sex marriage.
The cons include Carrie Prejean (2009 Miss USA candidate), actor Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains), and Mel Gibson (‘nuff said).
Among the advocates are actors George Takei (Star Trek) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), who are gay, and George Clooney, who is not; they focus on the issue as being concerned with equality in general, with same-sex marriage being a part of equal rights for all.
In the United States, the states that allow same-sex marriage are: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Washington DC, Iowa, and Washington. California recognizes the marriages it previously performed when it still allowed them, while Maryland recognizes out-of-state marriages.
The ten countries that allow full marriage equality nationwide are Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. Denmark is expected to pass a bill on same-sex marriage in June this year.
In Brazil, they are performed in some states although allowed in theory; in Mexico, they are allowed only in Mexico City. Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, while there are ongoing debates to allow it in Australia, Finland, Uruguay, and France.
How relevant is all this discussion in the Philippines, when we remain the only country without a divorce law? While our intellectuals and advocates are immersed in the global discourse on social issues related to marital, sexual, and gender rights, the rest of the country has lagged behind.
With the local Roman Catholic church still heavily sustaining the majority’s patriarchal mind-set, divorce and contraception remain bones of contention while many laws favor men over women (such as those on adultery and concubinage).
In order to cope with the dissonance between norms and actual behavior, people employ mechanisms such as dedma, or turning a blind eye.
Spousal infidelity is rampant across society; among the elite, recall the public exposure of Paqui Ortigas and his wife Suzie Madrigal Bayot’s private lives, and the Aleli Arroyo-Grace Ibuna-Iggy Arroyo triangle. Multiple families are a fact of life, as are the concomitant problems that everyone concerned, including the children, have to deal with.
Aleli Arroyo and Grace Ibuna. Image here.
Here’s an example of the difficulties that arise: last weekend, the 7-year-old daughter of my ex-husband by another woman asked me, “How are you related to my dad?” Now, how do we answer questions like that without causing trauma to the child?
My ex told me that she asked him last year, when she was introduced to our daughters, “How come I met my ates only now?” A divorce law would have spared us, and many others in unhappy marital situations, a measure of the anguish that arises from unfaithfulness and separation.
As for LGBT rights, much more needs to be done. Our society is generally tolerant of gays – many are prominent businessmen, showbiz celebrities, world-famous designers and artists, and successes in other fields – but they do not have equal rights when it comes to marriage. Though they live together and behave as married hetero couples do, and the fact is accepted, it is unfair that they do not have the same marital rights under the law.
Pride March in Manila, Philippines, Dec 2011. From a private Facebook page.
Cultural norms and values are socially constructed, meaning that they are generally shaped through consensus or agreement among the members of society. Sometimes these are imposed through force (war) or guilt and threats (religion).
All these rules, whether codified as law or unspoken as norms, are determined by man. If society is to serve its members, rather than the other way around, people must be responsive to historic shifts in thought and perspective that seek to find solutions to old, recurrent problems. With the discourse gaining even more prominence globally, now is the time for us to face this too.
The choice is between the hypocrisy our society has resorted to as a coping mechanism, or laws that reflect the current social condition and provide the means to properly deal with present-day situations.
We have evolved a hypocriciety. When will we accept that not all marriages work, and that people need the chance to start new lives? When will we throw away biological distinctions and gender-based prejudices and think of ourselves and each other simply as humans, all entitled to the same rights and privileges? ***
George Takei image from his Facebook Page. Paqui Ortigas image here.