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Manuel Buencamino: Same-sex marriage and the right to happiness
The online news portal of TV5

US President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage on the same day that North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage solely as a union between man and woman. North Carolina becomes the 30th US state to ban same-sex marriage.

Over here same sex marriage is banned by the Family Code:

Article 1. "Marriage is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life…".

Article 2. "No marriage shall be valid, unless these essential requisites are present: (1) Legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female;"

The Family Code is the first hurdle that advocates of same sex marriage must overcome. They can introduce an amendment to the Family Code to expand the definition of marriage; or they can file a case citing the Code's definition of marriage as unconstitutional because it is discriminates against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and thus violates basic human rights and the equal protection clause.

It will be a tough uphill battle even though practically all Filipino families have at least one member who is an "l","g", "b", or "t". Why many Filipinos will deprive their own family the right to live free of discrimination is beyond me.

The issue of same-sex marriage cannot be left in the hands of politicians. They will have no qualms about sacrificing human rights for political expediency. They will not advocate a controversial issue where they have no guarantee of a political pay-off. But right is right and wrong is wrong and there is nothing more wrong in a democratic society than discrimination against any group, specially a minority and an unpopular one at that.

Religious beliefs and culture are often cited as the basis for opposing same-sex marriages. But cultures evolve and we now live in a secular, democratic, republic where many Filipinos are not members of any religious groups. During the Spanish occupation, government was the handmaiden of religion - priests called the shots - but today religion is the handmaiden of government. These days, churches cooperate and help government implement social, educational, and anti-poverty programs through schools, charity organizations, etc. and not the other way around. Strip away religious belief and the opposition to same-sex marriage is exposed as nothing more than homophobia.

I am heterosexual but I do not condone discrimination against those who are not like me. Those who do not share my sexual orientation have as much right as I do to enjoy the full benefits of all the rights and laws that I enjoy. If I can choose who I want to marry so can they. Same-sex marriage is not about culture, morality, or religion; it is about every human being able to enjoy civil and human rights to the fullest. 

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (