Voting 5-4, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made history Friday morning (Washington time) when it declared that all state governments throughout the country, regardless of party affiliation and religious beliefs, are required to allow same-sex couples to marry. Its full text can be accessed here.
This means that the bans in same sex marriages that are still in place in thirteen states are no longer in effect and that LGBT couples in all states can tie the knot in a matter of weeks, or even days.
The decision in Obergefell vs Hodges also requires states to grant recognition to same-sex couples married in other states. The highly-anticipated ruling was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the SCOTUS’ four liberal justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
An appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan, Kennedy has authored the majority opinion in three other gay rights cases dating back to 1996. Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, together with three other conservative justices: Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.
The decision hinged primarily on the due process and equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Kennedy wrote:
“The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest. With that knowledge must come the recognition that laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.”
The justice then went on to acknowledge that much of the opposition to same-sex marriages is based on religion, pointing out that this is not a tenable justification for the bans to be kept in place:
“Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied.”
For many Filipinos, the question now is: how will this affect the situation of the LGBT community in the Philippines? This development is certainly good news for US citizens who are aiming to petition their same-sex spouses to live permanently in the U.S (that’s been the case since 2013).
Other than that, this particular historic court ruling is not likely to affect the Philippines in any direct manner. Our society is far more conservative than the United States. For example, abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973 thanks to the SCOTUS’ ruling in Roe vs Wade.
The Philippines, for its part, only had a law mandating near-universal access to contraceptives last 2012. (As a side note, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW urged the Philippine government last April to reconsider its prohibition of abortion in cases of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.)
Filipino netizens generally cheered this historic development. More than 24 hours since the news broke out, the hashtag #LoveWins is still a top trending topic in the country according to Twitter.However, it will be wrong to assume that this means majority of Filipinos now accept same-sex relationships – much more support gay marriages.
Surveys after surveys indicate otherwise, and it is likely that will be the case at least for the next decade or so. A 2013 poll by Social Weather Stations showed that 25% of Filipinos regard homosexuality as a mental illness, while 38% said that it is contagious. Meanwhile, a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center reported that 65% of Filipinos regard homosexuality as morally unacceptable.
The success of the marriage equality movement in the US will certainly inspire LGBT advocates in the Philippines on what to do going forward. Last month, a petition asking the Supreme Court to declare a provision of the Family Code which declares that marriage is only for a man and a woman.
Just like in Obergefell vs Hodges, the petitioner, lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III, centered his arguments around the due process and equal protection clauses of the 1987 Constitution. However, one prominent lawyer already hinted that the case may eventually get dismissed for lack of standing.
The legalization of same-sex marriages in the US will hopefully serve as a catalyst for the inclusion of LGBT issues in our national conversation especially in the context of the coming 2016 elections. Of course, it is preposterous to expect people running for president or senator to suddenly come out endorsing marriage equality.
But if local LGBT advocates can somehow make the likes of Grace Poe, Rodrigo Duterte, and other national figures discuss their plans regarding ending discrimination of transgenders in the workplace or maybe some sort of legal recognition for same-sex couples, then it’s already a big thing.
For now, Filipino LGBT advocates can only look up to what their counterparts in the US have achieved – earnestly hoping that they’d reach the same milestone someday.
PS: Please take a minute to watch this heartwarming (if not tear-jerking) LGBT-themed ad from Wells Fargo: