By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay on Wednesday appealed to lawmakers to consider passing a bill that would address all forms of discrimination and one that would cover everybody and not just members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) community.
Binay made this suggestion as members of various anti- and pro Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill groups, clashed over the measure.
According to Binay, she too had, experience being discriminated for having a dark skin tone. Because of this, she said she wonders if passing a measure that would protect people like her is needed to ensure that she won’t suffer any more discrimination.
“I mean for example ako, I’ve been discriminated (because) of my color. Does that mean that I need to file a bill to protect people like me?” she asked.
“So sana ‘yung discussion natin when it comes to discrimination should be more universal, should be more encompassing,” she added.
Binay said that instead of passing the SOGIE bill, lawmakers can just incorporate some of its provisions in the Anti-Discrimination measure that has been filed in the Senate by Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, however, said that while she supports a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill, there is a necessity to file a separate measure for the LGBTQ+ community.
“We’re trying to explore the supporting bills like the comprehensive Anti-Discrimination bill and the SOGIE bill can complement each other,” said Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality.
“But we need to continue to look at the SOGIE Equality bills to find particular protection against discrimination particularly based on SOGIE,” she said.
Facts vs ‘feelings’
The Coalition of Concerned Families of the Philippines (CCFP) said that while they recognize the rights and the needs of those who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ community, this may spur confusion and would overrule facts regarding physiological characteristics.
“The first point of concern is of the concept of the bill itself. Immediately, there is exclusion, non-mention of other sectors that would be immediately affected by the bill. It is a one-sided bill, which is supposedly anti-discrimination,” said Lyndon Caña of the CCFP.
Caña also argued that the bill is basically based on “feelings.” “There is a contest between facts and feelings. It appears that under SOGIE bill, facts will be defeated by feelings.”
“The bill itself defines it as a personal sense. Personal; sa iyo lang. It’s a feeling. It’s a disposition…mangingibabaw ang personal sense which is given more premium than facts,” Caña pointed out.
To illustrate, Caña said the case of a transgender woman who refuses to take a restroom for male. “If you insists to a transgender woman, with all due respect, sir, my conscience tells me that you’re really a man, no matter what medical procedure you went through, sa SOGIE bill, patay ka,” he stressed.
Caña pointed out that the implications of the measure itself are dangerous especially if the crime of discrimination aims to punish “horrendously” half a million people of possibly six to 12 years of imprisonment apart from civil liabilities, those who will assert their rights based on “feelings.”
Nevertheless, Caña said the CCFP does not hate the LGBT community.
“We do not condone any form of bashing, bullying or disrespect… We categorically state that they are human beings. They are persons. They are entitled to respect. We, however, have the strongest reservations or concerns or opposition to this SOGIE bill. I hope it would not be misconstrued as hatred for the LGBT community,” he said.
Rainbow Catholics’ support bill
The Rainbow Catholics Philippines, Inc. an organization that brings together individuals who work for the pastoral care and justice for LGBTIQ people and their families, said it fully supports the measure simply because it wants them to enjoy equal rights and not be subjected to discrimination and prejudice.
“We believe that measures should be put in place to ensure that LGBTIQ+ peoples are given equal rights and are not subject to discrimination and prejudice. The government must play an active role in ensuring that everyone enjoys the same rights and protection,” said Dr. Eva Callueng, head of the Rainbow Catholics group.
“Though religion has been used to oppress and block campaigns for an Anti- Discrimination bill, we do not see anything in the bill that runs contrary to the Church’s teachings,” Calleung said.
She also said the Catholic Church preaches love and acceptance, something this bill will ensure. Nowhere in the proposed bill is it written that LGBTIQ+ will be given special privileges. The bill simply ensures that LGBTIQ+ peoples enjoy the same rights and protections enjoyed by everyone.
“In a perfect world we would not even need a law like this, but we do not live in a perfect world and discrimination and injustices against LGBTIQ+ people are rampant. Discrimination on the basis of one’s SOGIE must be eliminated and enacting this bill will be a step towards achieving this,” they also said.