Despite Atty. Jess Falcis’s attempt, history was not going to be made anytime soon. The Philippine Supreme Court, in its decision, junked the lawyer’s petition to recognize same sex marriage “with finality.”
Now, wherever you may end up on this legal (emphasis on legal, because it is not a religious one) debate, those words might be a bit misleading. Here are 8 things we need to understand about this decision:
8. It is NOT final.
Despite the qualifier that the petition was junked “with finality,” this does not mean that nobody can ever try to petition for the law to recognize marriage equality ever again. What it simply means is that this particular petition, the one filed by Atty. Falcis, is indeed rejected with finality. Nothing prevents anyone else from trying in the future, but they shouldn’t be too hasty about that, because…
7. The rejection of the petition was over technicalities, not actual legalities.
The Supreme Court was very clear as to why it rejected the application. First, Atty Falcis, while indeed gay, was not trying to get married, or married abroad and trying to get the country to acknowledge it. Secondly, the petition ignored the hierarchy of the courts, which means the petition jumped straight to the SC instead of going through the lower courts first. Lastly, he failed to “raise an actual, justiciable controversy.” There were no actual stakes that required the intervention of the Supreme Court, based on the way the petition was filed.
In short, the court did not even debate the merits of the petition, and dismissed it based on its form, rather than its content. This distinction is very important.
6. Atty Falcis and his co-counsels are held liable for indirect contempt.
The long and short of this is that Atty Falcis did more harm than good for his own cause by filing it the way he did, and the Supreme Court does not take too kindly to people who purport to know the legal process, only to bypass it in hopes of creating noise at the expense of the integrity of the process. If you support marriage equality, you know this is not how it’s supposed to be done. If you don’t, then all you care about is that the people on the other side shot themselves in the foot.
5. This was a legal petition and it will NOT affect the church in any way.
This should go without saying, but a lot of people forget: marriage equality is a legal debate, not a religious one. This means that at no point will legalizing gay marriage require Catholic churches to marry two dudes or two ladies to each other, because the church and the state stand separate from each other.
Which does lead to the awkward question why straight people should try to deny gay people of the same rights straight people currently enjoy when giving gay people equal rights obviously doesn’t affect straight people in any way, but let’s not talk about that.
4. Marriage Equality is an important debate, but…
… shouldn’t finally legalizing divorce come first? The last thing you want is to allow gay people to enter unhappy marriages just like straight people with no recourse out of it outside of the extremely expensive and inefficient annulment process.
It’s almost a safe prediction to assume that same-sex marriage will not have a snowball’s chance in hell of being allowed in this country for as long as divorce isn’t a thing.
3. This is about equal rights, not special rights.
Straight people can get married to the people they love. Gay people can’t. At least, not legally in the Philippines. This isn’t asking for anything that everyone else doesn’t already enjoy. And no, pedophilia or bestiality doesn’t figure into this because children or animals are, by definition, not consenting adults: an obvious requirement in any given marriage.
So why not just go for “civil unions?” Why insist on marriage? Are we really supposed to ask that in the face of decades of us laughing at the “separate but equal” clause they used to justify segregation of black and white people? The mere act of making it a point to differentiate between the two implies anything but equality in the first place. Every marriage, after all, as Bill Maher put it, is a same-sex marriage. Every night, it’s the same sex. If you’re even that lucky.
2. The court was actually sympathetic towards the cause.
The court decision went out of its way to recognize the discrimination that the LGBT community has been receiving for ages. In fact, it became very clear that if the petition managed to prove that discrimination was unjust towards them, and that the petitioners themselves were being adversely affected by said discrimination, then the petition might have stood a fighting chance.
1. The fight isn’t over.
Taiwan is the only Asian country right now that allows for marriage equality. Meanwhile, the Philippines is literally the only country in the world not named the Vatican that does not allow for divorce. As progressive as we might think the Philippines is, it’s pretty clear we still have a long way to go in recognizing that people who aren’t like us, especially when it comes to who we love and what God (or lack thereof) that we believe in should not deny these people of the same rights the average Christian Pinoy generally enjoys.
Atty Falcis may not have done this the right way, but that doesn’t mean that this cause was never worth fighting for. Indeed, the growing reality is that it definitely is, and needs to be conclusively resolved sooner than later.