#LoveWins: When equality became the law of the land
When I first came out as a young lesbian, I was immediately told that the life I "chose" would lead to nowhere. I remember the day vividly. I was rushing to tell a good friend about an amazing girl I had just met. I was breathless, giddy, and feeling like I finally found love.
"Wala kang makukuha sa tibo. Walang asawa, walang sex (?), walang anak. Kaya sila mabait sa iyo kasi wala silang kayang ibigay," she blurted out.
(You won't get anything from a lesbian. They can't marry you, they can't have sex (?), they can't give you children. That's why they are good to you because they can't give you anything.)
Ouch! Needless to say that friendship ended that day. While I couldn't believe what I heard from someone I felt was as enlightened and as educated as I was, I soon learned that I was surrounded by homophobes disguised as concerned friends. I quickly culled them and haven't looked back.
I went on to begin my life as an out and proud lesbian. In the back of my mind I wanted to make the most of myself as a partner and an advocate so that nobody could ever say those words about me. I was determined to be of use, or at least be an example. I also wanted to be the solace of younger lesbians that I didn't have when I was their age.
That was 17 years ago. I've since been in several relationships that didn't have the option of marriage but where we lived as committed partners anyway. Three years ago, I was able to marry my partner of 10 years in New York, an experience I've written about often (READ: When a woman has a wife). I've also discussed same-sex marriage regularly, emphasizing the need for LGBT folks to be able to commit to love and obtain equal benefits under the law.
Now here we are. First there was the DOMA repeal in 2013, and then last Friday the US Supreme Court made history by legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Going forward, states must recognize all marriages from other states as well as issue marriage licenses to any two unrelated adults who request it.
I've discussed in length how the ability to marry my partner has changed me as a person as well as provided legal benefits and privileges we otherwise wouldn't have. In a few months, I will be married 3 years and committed to the same person for 13. New York is not burning in hell. No one has been struck by lightning. No person or religion has been harmed by my marriage to my wife.
Is the latest SCOTUS ruling such a drastic change? Not exactly. The marriage equality movement has been around for decades and this law is long overdue. It only needed the leadership of the current administration to voice their stand on same-sex marriages along with the growing shift of opinion among its constituents.
What it means for the Philippines
While the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling has no concrete bearing on Philippine citizens, it has put this controversial topic on the table once again. Facebook reported that 26 million of its users “rainbow-fied” their profile pictures. According to sociologists, merely seeing rainbow-colored profile pictures in one's newsfeed results in briefly thinking about the issue and deciding where one stands.
Surprisingly, many straight allies are actually making a stand, and LGBT folks are encouraged by this show of support among their heterosexual friends. Popular brands declared their solidarity with the ruling, turning the internet into a happy barrage of rainbows the past couple of days. It appeared that those who opposed same-sex marriage are in the sad and hateful minority for the very first time.
For the Philippines where a same-sex marriage bill is still in its stages of infancy, it will likely be decades before our LGBT community will catch a glimpse of equality now enjoyed by the USA.
With the new SCOTUS ruling, however, the government has to decide how to treat Filipino same-sex couples married overseas. At the very least, the dominance of this debate in recent days has shown LGBT people who their allies are and who their friends are not.
According to UP professor Sylvia Estrada Claudio, the SCOTUS ruling will have positive repercussions for local movements since the Philippines' legal setup is largely based on the U.S. system.
Individually, the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US gives hope to young LGBT people worldwide even in seeing that in some parts of the world, their relationships are not dead ends. In fact, they are even celebrated and protected. While progress may be slow in their home countries, seeing a world power treat all of its citizens equally (and realizing it has no negative effect on society) will be the best example the US can give.
As same-sex commitment ceremonies become more common, family members will also learn to view gay couples as they view any other couple. The more LGBT individuals feel more confident to come out, the more the people around them will evolve in their opinions and realize that we are no different from any other couple in our hopes and dreams and affections for one another.
There will always be religious bigots who will disrespect our relationships and treat our lives as sinful and disgusting aberrations. But this time, they will have no choice but to keep their peace and respect the law of the land, at least in the US and other countries.
Not a magic pill
The legalization of same-sex marriage in the US doesn't say that gay couples' marriages are better or unique, but just equal to all other marriages performed in any other state. It doesn't mean gays are exempted from infidelity, marital discord, or divorce, but just equal in status and in the rights and benefits given to any other citizen of the US who wishes to obtain a state-sanctioned marriage.
The SCOTUS ruling puts into law the equality of all marriages regardless of gender or sexual orientation. While religious groups may continue to oppose and refuse to perform same-sex marriages, all courthouses will be required to respect this law and issue marriage licenses to any two consenting unrelated adults regardless of gender.
This may sound technical but it really is just a statement of equal treatment of all kinds of love and their manifestations.
Touching words from Justice Kennedy's statement in the ruling reinforced my feelings on why this was such a victorious occasion. He said, "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were."
He finally rebuked the constant accusation that same-sex couples seek to destroy "traditional" marriage. In his statement he continued, "It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."
With the US signing a law that gives same-sex couples rights that are equal to their heterosexual counterparts, Friday's Supreme Court ruling was a joyous victory not just for the LGBT community, but for the entire human race - gay or straight.
Equality, the abundance of love, and the freedom to make commitments only make a society better for all. - Rappler.com
Here are Shakira Sison's previous pieces on marriage equality: