While Filipinos continue to grapple with ever changing social mores brought in part by sectors like the homosexual community, laws that seek protection for their welfare have for the most part been met with favor.
Examples of these laws is the Cebu City ordinance banning discrimination of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in terms of employment and in the workplace.
The Cebu Provincial Board (PB) is catching up with its own version of the ordinance also banning discrimination of the LGBT community in job hunting and in the workplace.
Enactment of these laws show that while Filipinos, majority of whom are raised Catholics, may not approve of the sexual preferences and lifestyle of gays, they recognize their right not to be discriminated against in terms of gainful employment and being treated with the same respect accorded to every human being.
These twin measures didn’t immediately spring out of the consciousness of the law’s authors. A lot of the spadework was done by the progressive political group Ang Ladlad which lobbied hard for its approval.
One of its outspoken resource persons, popular TV host Boy Abunda, last year tangled with the ordinance’s author, PB Member Arleigh Sitoy. Whether the ordinance is part of Sitoy’s efforts to make amends is a subject to speculation.
Bigotry in whatever form ranged against race, religion, political philosophy or sexual orientation is a bane in societies that fancy themselves modern and civilized.
While the 1987 Philippine Constitution uses the word discrimination in the Bill of Rights to refer to freedom of religious worship, it still provides that no person shall be denied “equal protection of the laws”.
It also has a binding commitment under State Policies of the charter that states that “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”
The Catholic Church, long an opponent of same-sex marriages and priesthood for women, preaches for the most part tolerance and even compassion for the third sex as individuals with human dignity.
But the country’s dominant religion and its conservatism were not stumbling blocks when it came to crafting local laws that treat the LGBT community not as lepers to be isolated from the rest of society but as people who should be respected with the same rights as everyone else.
While full acceptance may be more difficult to achieve, respecting the rights of the LGBT community is a positive first step towards building bridges and dismantling ignorance and bigotry.
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