By: Jefferson Acala
Unveiling the Story
Love wins! These were the words shouted by the members of the LGBT community way back June 26, 2015. Cheers coming from same sex couples and supporters of this advocacy waving lots of rainbow flags and banners with the Human Rights Campaign’s equal sign filled the façade of the United States Supreme Court after it ruled that same sex marriage is a legal right of all Americans. This allowed same sex couples to be one, accompanied by the legal consequences that it has. They now enjoy the effects of marriage, including all benefits and the recognition that they are indeed married couples, like the heterosexual ones.
This decision has been made after petitioners, headed by Jim Obergefell, asked for equal dignity in the eyes of the law, which rooted from their hope that the Constitution will grant them this fundamental right to marry. Obergefell, the lead petitioner, filed the suit because he was not allowed to put his name on his late husband John Arthur’s death certificate after Arthur died, reason why he gave his all for this fight against indignity.
According to BBC, one of the demonstrators, Jordan Monaghan, called his mother from his mobile phone during the proclamation turned celebration, and said, “Hey mom, I’m at the Supreme Court. Your son can have a husband now.”
The decision was made possible by five justices, lead by Justice Anthony Kennedy. He wrote:
“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. 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 they once were.”
In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia attacked the Court’s “threat to American democracy.” Quoting another dissenter, Chief Justice John Roberts:
“If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
Nonetheless, the landmark decision turned the sorrows of the LGBT community to smiles after their battle for this right for years. As former President Barack Obama has put it, it was a victory for America. “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free,” he said. The supporters who sang the National Anthem have invigorated this statement, they cheered and clapped as they sang, United States is the land of the free. Obama also said that Americans should be very proud because small acts of courage slowly made an entire country realize that indeed, love is love, that members of the LGBT community should be treated as equals, hence strengthening the society.
Onto the Repercussions
Years may have passed but the significance of such proclamation flourishes. It stays in the consciousness of people for so long, and there are a lot of reasons why it happens. First, the LGBT community is not just present in the United States. Wherever you go, there are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. The decision, which was made in the United States, is a good signal for all the members of the said community all over the world, that their fight for equality is little by little paying off. It is but undeniable that its effect to the world is huge due to the economic standing of the United States. The decision sparked hope on the minds of the members of the LGBT community all over the globe, knowing the fact that in each country, there are members who fight for the same right. It is but a fact that not all courts have granted this right to those who aspire for it. The LGBT community is not just fighting for this right of getting married in the eyes of the law, they also aspire for this basic right of being treated as equals, of getting rid of discrimination against the members of the said community. In the Philippines, the said decision gave hope to the members of the LGBT community. One concrete example is the fight headed by Geraldine Roman, the first transgender elected congresswoman. She continues to fight for the legalization of Anti-Discrimination Bill that prohibits all varieties of sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination. As an overview, any violators will be punished with a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment from one to six years. As of this writing, the SOGIE Equality Bill is on the Rules Committee, according to Congresswoman Roman, the status which continues to give hope to the members of the LGBT community in the Philippines that their aspirations will really come to reality.
Young minds also expressed their hopes that, just like in the United States, equality for the members of the said community may be granted, not pertaining to the same sex marriage approval here in the Philippines, because it is undeniable that it is somehow far from becoming a reality, but the basic right of getting respected, of being equal with the heterosexuals. These young minds also expressed their desire through an LGBT pride march. Going back, the first LGBT-related bill in the Philippines, House Bill 2684, was submitted on August 1995, which aimed to acknowledge the third sex as a sector. Four years after, the country’s initial LGBT lobby cluster, the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network Philippines (LAGABLAB-Pilipinas) was formally launched. A year after, the first Anti-Discrimination Bill was filed by Akbyan Representative Etta Rosales in the House of Representatives and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago in the Senate. Amidst the removal of President Estrada from office, such bill vanished, hugely affected by Rep. Benny Abante, leader of the House of Committee on Human Rights, a former pastor who used his position to dam the said bill. It was then followed by the passing of three bills in line with the same desire of fighting discrimination, which unfortunately, were all trashed off. The landmark decision in the United States greatly affected the sparking of hope on the minds of the members of the LGBT community and advocates to fight for their rights.
Scrutinizing the Irony
Almost a year after the approval of same sex marriage in the United States, it is but ironic that a crime involving the members of the LGBT community occurred. An American-born man who pledged allegiance to ISIS gunned down 49 people and wounded around 53 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando. This, by far, is the deadliest mass shooting in the United States and the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11, authorities said, stating it from a report by CNN. According to former American President Barack Obama, the said attack, aside from being an act of terror, is an act of hate, hate directed to the members of the LGBT community, a heartbreaking day for all lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. There was also a message posted in Arabic on a dark web site associated with the ISIS news agency Amaq which said, “the armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida and that bore more than a 100 killed and wounded was carried out by an Islamic state fighter.”
Despite the fact that the killer Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, was shot and killed by the police, the terror continues. The cited event is a proof that despite the legalization of same sex marriage in United States, discrimination and violence towards the LGBT community continues. Same sex marriage may have allowed same sex couples to be united in the eyes of the law, but there are still people, Mateen for example, who could do things, just to get rid of these lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders, for they think these people do not deserve a space in this world, that these people commit actions which are against humankind, leading to acts which even their innocent lives would be at stake. The legalization of same sex marriage is not the end of the fight. Attacks to the LGBT community in totality gives a clear message that the LGBT community needs a greater recognition of rights. In the United states, there is a law that punishes acts against the LGBT community, and congressmen have passed bills to make the penalty harsher, following the mentioned hate crime. In the Philippines, the equality bill is still on its way to becoming a law. According to Danton Remoto, chairman emeritus of Ang Ladlad, an LGBT partylist, discrimination of the LGBT community includes limitation of rights when it comes to employment, academe, health care, and even adoption. Local governments implement ordinances to stop these, but, according to Remoto, these are not enough. Ang Ladlad is one of the various groups that fight for the enactment of the Anti-Discrimination Bill as a law. The partylist supports LGBT businesses, offers support for HIV/AIDS-related cases, and aims for the criminalization of any act of discrimination towards the LGBT community. For the old members of the community, Ang Ladlad envisions to have a center wherein their needs could be provided. These goals will be nearer to becoming a reality and these projects will be wider in scope only upon the legalization of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. Considering the impact of America on the culture of the Filipino people, the approval of same sex marriage there gave light to the LGBT advocates, that the equality bill in the Philippines will soon be approved. The cited news will not die in the consciousness of the masses for sure, specifically for the members of the LGBT community, just like their hope for the total recognition of their rights against discrimination and violence, which will never perish.
New Media Supremacy
Media plays a major role in sustaining the longevity of the said news in the consciousness of the masses. With the existence of social media, news is now accessible everywhere, everytime. News is just a click away, which makes news stay longer in the minds of the people, accessibility which allows people to not just consume the news, but create repercussions out of it. Not long after the United States ruled that the same marriage is legal, social and mobile applications spread the news and the pride. Facebook gave users a rainbow filter on their profile picture and a lot of people joined the wave of rainbow-inspired profile pictures. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joined the trend. It enabled people to show their support and love to the LGBT community, all over the globe. The netizens also resorted to Twitter to express their happiness brought forth by the decision. According to Talkwalker in a report from Adweek, within the first hour of the Supreme Court’s decision, the #lovewins hashtag received 284,730 mentions, and 60,727 unique tweets, the #SCOTUSMarriage hashtag received 88,872 mentions, and 20,375 unique tweets, and the #MarriageEquality hashtag saw 63,968 mentions, and 63,968 unique tweets. Brands also expressed their support to the community on Twitter. The top three most successful brand tweets came from Starbucks, The Sims and American Airlines.
Twitter also joined the movement by adding a rainbow heart to any tweet with the hashtag #LoveWins. The White House also expressed its glee over the decision after it changed its Facebook and Twitter profile pictures with a touch of rainbow, signifying the success of the LGBT community. Aside from these trends, news all over mainstream media and news sites spread.
The presence of new media allows participatory civics, which refers to forms of civic engagement that use digital media as a core component and embrace a post-informed citizen model of civic participation, according to Ethan Zuckerman. The millenials who use social media almost all the time, have a higher tendency to be involved to these discussions, to express what they have inside, and for some, to just be part of the mainstream. The changing of profile picture to having a rainbow filter and the expression of one’s support and bliss over the decision through social media is a form of participation of a person, in particular a netizen, to the issues surrounding the world. Through the presence of new media, it becomes easy for people to express and voice out their thoughts and opinions, because for some, it is simply not good to feel helpless and ineffective. It allows the formation of groups composed of members with the same mindset incredibly easy. Thanks to the presence of new media for making the event more impactful through the voice expressed by the people.
5 versus 4. 5 voted for the legalization of same sex marriage, 4 expressed their dissent. This division of votes for the legalization of same sex marriage in the United States also signifies the divide among people on viewing and treating the LGBT community. No matter what your stand is, the members of this community, lesbians, gay, bisexuals, and transgenders will continue fighting, will surely endure the pain of violence and discrimination. To those who oppose this union, your opinion is respected, but hopefully, you pay the same respect to those who believe on it, because at the end of the day, no one could tell a person what he or she should feel. No matter what, love is love.