Posted: July 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

I never thought I’d see the day when New York would agree to same-sex marriage as a matter of state policy. Not that in the past it had any moral qualms of its own. As the center of all cities of the world it has done much toward the development of business and the arts. On that note alone, morals for the most part as a driving force don’t always count. The bill—which had a close battle of 33-29—was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on June 24.

Albeit not the first, New York is now the leading paradigm of gay unions, it seems. Everything from LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues to mass gay weddings exploded worldwide apparently as a result of New York allowing same-sex marriages. At the home front, Baguio was the scene a few days ago of a mass gay wedding officiated by the Metropolitan Community Church or MCC. A gay pride parade was launched at the University of the Philippines in Diliman last week. Another was recently concluded in New York, in celebration of the new law. LGBTs, en masse, are coming out in the open.

The state of Massachusetts was the first recorded American state to have issued marriage licenses to gay unions. I have always thought it was San Francisco. But then it pays to be erroneously human. Massachusetts’ reasons were none more pragmatic than most burgeoning state economies. It claimed, in relation to a 2008 UCLA study, that allowing same-sex marriage could pump up the state’s economy by a whopping $100 million over three years. Revenues on taxes could go up by a little over $5 million while license fees up to about a million dollars. As far as justifications are concerned, this apparently beats all opposing voices.

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Maryland was the first to ban same-sex marriages in the United States. California, on the other hand, was said to have invented the term “domestic partnership” in its rulings. Denmark was the first in the world to seriously adopt the term, changing it slightly to “registered partnership” in its same-sex unions. Iceland and Norway followed suit. The French parliament continues to ban same-sex marriages in a very close battle of 293 votes over 222.

Uganda, as reported, was more extreme. Ugandan LGBTs fought an uphill battle recently to scrap the bill proposing the death penalty on the heads of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.

Gay marriages are not, however, entirely new. It’s hardly surprising to see history’s early records citing the Roman Empire as having same-sex marriages. Cicero was said to have mentioned same-sex marriages in some of his writings as if these were everyday occurrences in the empire. This went on until Christianity became the state religion and as a resulting policy, banned homosexual marriages and topped the ruling with the death penalty. Lesbian unions between very young girls have been known to exist in China during the Ming Dynasty. Such was celebrated with great fanfare. Native Americans value homosexuals as members of the tribe.

The issue of LGBTs has been in the open recently, hence the Philippines Graphic’s interest on the subject. We are here neither to take sides nor pontificate on the morality or immorality of it. That’s for government, churches and even LGBTs to discuss. Rather, it is our mandate to put controversial issues in context with the whole vision of country and our future. LGBTs, we have to admit, are part of that future. They, like you and me, are Filipinos.

It is our belief that an understanding of LGBTs must be reached for whatever reason this will serve the country. The same goes with our overseas workers, the country’s youth, our leaders in government, the media, professionals, etc. Several controversial issues have also propped up in relation to LGBTs, predominant of which are AIDS and HIV (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

The Department of Health reported this month that most of those who tested positive for HIV “came from Central Visayas.” It’s a startling report where 88% of cases in 2010 came from the said province, as mentioned by Dr. Eric Tayag at a seminar on AIDS in Tagaytay City.

Based on DoH data, males having sex with males is now the predominant mode of transmission of HIV in the Philippines, bearing 77% of close to 500 reported cases in the first quarter of 2011. In past years, it was heterosexual sex. Dr. Tayag mentioned that young males who have been at it, for the most part, do not consider themselves “gay.” Female sex workers and injecting drug users are the second and third, respectively. Mother-to-child and blood transfusion fall in the category of least transmission in the Philippines. Only 20, according to Tayag, were infected through blood products. Tayag, however, raised fears that if HIV infection gets any worse than it is, it might put in jeopardy the country’s supply of uninfected blood.

Overall, there are 6,498 cases of HIV infected patients in the country. But in one report, the World Health Organization debunks this figure, saying the country now has 11,200 undocumented cases of HIV and AIDS in the country. The United Nations peg the age bracket at 20-24, younger and more restless. While in another report, a study revealed that most call center agents are more likely to engage in “risky sex” due to the environment and pressure from peers. OFWs, too, are at risk.

On a more positive note, LGBTs have been contributing much in the fields of media, business, cinema, literature and the arts, among others. Business process outsourcing (call centers) in the Philippines is a booming economic machine worth $11 billion and will employ close to a million full-time employees by the end of 2011. Last year’s OFW remittances topped previous figures at $18.7 billion, a new record by Bangko Sentral standards. Are we to pull the plug on all this because of a serious health risk? We leave that to experts.

LGBTs have suffered much prejudice through the years and it’s about time “straight” people understand where they are coming from. It is for good reason their pride marches are held every year: That society, the church and government lend them an ear. Hate crimes, such as the murders of gays, have recently reached very disturbing proportions. In spite of religious convictions, murder of gays must never be an option.

But LGBTs, too, must understand why “straight” society deals with homosexual behavior the way it does. Fear is the only recourse of people over things they do not understand. Hence, it is incumbent for LGBTs and “straights” to look for a middle ground in order to live peaceably with one another. Both must “police” their ranks all because in the end, we all contribute to the bad was well as good in society.

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JOEL PABLO SALUD is the editor-in-chief and interim literary editor of the Philippines Graphic magazine, the country’s top newsweekly publication under the ALC Group of Publications, which include the BusinessMirror.  He is a member of the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Manila Critics Circle. He regularly writes reviews for the Philippines Graphic Review of Literature.

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