That’s really the only response I, and many others, could give to the newest proposed bill, “The Heterosexual Act of 2022.” It’s absurd. It’s the kind of absurd where it’s hard to come up with an intelligent response immediately because you have to wrap your head around how it even exists first.
READ: Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. of Manila’s 6th District files HB 5717 or the Act Recognizing, Defining and Protecting the Rights of Heterosexuals. | @BPinlacINQpic.twitter.com/EsGAXpcsAg
So what exactly is the bill? As the proposal states, it’s “an act recognizing, defining, and protecting the rights of heterosexuals.” It includes gems like defining queer as “a person who is differing in some way from what is usual or normal” and stating that the best way for queer people to “avoid a ‘perceived’ discrimination is to be what God created us to be.” Thanks a lot, I didn’t know that! Speaking of not knowing things, I don’t think Manila’s 6th District Representative Benny Abante, who filed the bill, knows the difference between sexual orientation and gender, and so because of that not all queer identities exist in opposition to heterosexuality. Trans people can also be straight.
It’s extremely telling that the bill, purportedly made to protect the rights of heterosexual people, is actually more about religion. Under the section on the rights of heterosexuals, it points out five rights they should be granted (as if they don’t have them already), which are all about expressing their religion. Namely:
to freely practice, proclaim, and defend their religious beliefs without interference
to practice their religious profession freely with the right to “exclude therefrom” people with different beliefs or faiths
to “freely express and communicate with others, public or privately” (this includes written text on social media, verbal correspondences, and appearances on print and TV media)
freely run churches, businesses, schools, or workplaces
freely express views about “homosexuality, bisexuality, and on transgenders and queers according to their religious beliefs and practices and to biblical principles and standards”
This isn’t a bill for heterosexual people. It’s a bill for religious heterosexuals. And specifically, religious heterosexuals using their beliefs to promote hateful views. Being able to proclaim and practice their beliefs is already something that religious people are able to do and have the right to do so. Queer people and queer rights won’t impede them from practicing their religion or going to mass. The LGBTQIA+ community as a whole doesn’t hate God or religion. In fact, and it pains me that I have to point it out, many queer people are also religious and have a deep relationship with their faith, and there are even queer churches like MCC Table that welcomes everyone with open arms.
But what religious folks will cease to have, should the SOGIE Bill be passed, is the right to weaponize those beliefs against queer people.
If you had any questions about what influenced the bill (namely, homophobia and transphobia masquerading as a moral and spiritual right), the explanatory note answers it for you. Abante wrote that queer people are “clamoring for ‘legislated rights’ and ‘state protection’” that are “in contravention to God’s law.”
“These Bills not only recognize, but worse, promote and give reward to ‘genders’ not created by God,” it says, adding “If we allow these Bills to become a law, these groups of precious souls will be driven away and away from God.”
READ: Reyna Valmores, chairperson of Bahaghari PH, calls Abante’s proposed measure “a joke of a law.”
So, what does this have to do with Philippine law? Why should the law care about the content of our poor souls, when it can’t even keep us alive or keep the killers convicted?
I can’t keep reminding actual politicians who are crafting laws that there is a separation between the church and the state. I can’t. If you are a politician who wields power over me, how do you not know that this is codified into our constitution, and that this exact separation is why churches are able to freely practice without state interference? At this point, I can’t see politicians who continue to use religion to justify keeping rights away from queer people (like the opposition to a bill against discrimination based on SOGIE) and from women (like the opposition to the legalization of divorce) as anything other than being deliberately obtuse. They have to know. And if they do know, they have to know they’re making a mockery out of us, as our Pride cover star Rey Valmores pointed out.
I know exactly where Abante is coming from because I’ve lived as a queer person all my life and I’ve seen countless people justifying their homophobia and transphobia because it’s somehow part of their faith. “Respect my religion,” they say, in reference to them openly expressing hostility against and disrespecting queer people.
How is hate a fundamental aspect of someone’s faith, I will never understand. Sometimes I think we should just ignore it and accept that these people are going to be homophobic, but then I remember being a child and the trauma of being kept in the closet because your religion that you love is telling you that being who you are is going to send you to hell. I think about how coming out can still be so dangerous and how, if religion is successful in convincing you that you can pray the gay away, you’re paraded around like some freak of nature who by God’s grace was able to deny the demon inside them. I think about how this means living half a life or dying. It’s not religious persecution to point this out. But honestly, I think even with the SOGIE Bill in place, churches will probably still be able to skate on by and continuing doing this, as long as they continue using metaphors and don’t specifically say that we should take away rights from gay people.
Aside from the bill using religion to justify homophobia and transphobia, it also fundamentally misunderstands the SOGIE Bill. Abante writes, “If, therefore, we seek to ‘grant’ and/or ‘protect’ rights to homesexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers, in the spirit of justice, equity, and fair play, we must also grant and/or protect rights to heterosexuals who are the actual and direct creations of God.”
Here’s the thing: the SOGIE Bill already does that. It seeks to protect people from discrimination based on their gender and sexuality. That includes heterosexuals. If a heterosexual were somehow to be discriminated based on their heterosexuality (and no, being told they’re homophobic because they said or did something homophobic doesn’t count), they could use that bill to gain justice.
If anything, this bill is exactly why we desperately need the SOGIE Bill. The fact that someone would think that not being allowed to persecute the LGBTQIA+ community is stepping on their rights is a problem.
‘HOW CAN THEY GRANT THIS ‘HETEROSEXUAL ACT’ WHEN HETEROS AREN’T REALLY OPPRESSED?’
TV host KaladKaren poses this question after Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr of Manila’s 6th District filed HB 5717, or the Act Recognizing, Defining and Protecting the Rights of Heterosexuals. pic.twitter.com/ypWV1BpfJG
Let me remind you: The SOGIE Bill is about discrimination. It’s not a gay marriage law (which we should have) or a law about prioritizing the rights of homosexuals over heterosexuals. It’s a bill saying that discrimination should not be allowed because right now the law allows it. There are no laws against hate speech. Your boss, your principal, or your pastor can call an entire group of people and you the F-word and there would be no recourse for that, unless you can somehow make it fit under libel or defamation, but those have specific usages, too. Cis heterosexual people do not experience systemic oppression based on their sexuality
The worst case scenario that the bill could think up is heterosexuals not being allowed to promote the ideology that queer people should be discriminated against. The worst case scenario in a case of homophobia or transphobia is the queer person being murdered. This happened with Jennifer Laude when Scott Pemberton, who used a defense of trans panic, killed her. And this happens constantly: Members of the LGBTQIA+ community being killed, harassed, or beaten up for who they are.