Family Destruction?

It is not hard to find organizations in the Philippines stating that the family is the foundation of Philippine society.  I agree with this 100%. In fact, the family is the foundation of every society across the globe, not just in the Philippines.

Where I differ with them, however, is in what their definition of family is.

To them, "family" has a very strict, very limited definition.  A family is one man, one woman, and at least one child.  For most religious conservatives, a married straight couple without children wouldn't even qualify as a "true" family.

But family is far more than just dad, mom, and babies.  There are many different types of families.  There are married couples who cannot or choose not to have children; there are cohabiting couples who may or may not have children; there are single-parent families, some divorced or separated, others who have always been single; there are interwoven step-families that are products of re-marriages; there are adoptive families; there are grandparents or aunts and uncles raising their grandchildren or nieces and nephews; and there are same-sex couples, either married or cohabiting, who may or may not have children.  Though most of these may not fit the construct of the "traditional" family, they are families nonetheless.

A group known as Pro-Life Philippines, a Catholic advocacy group, states that "for years, homosexuals have been demanding the redefinition of the family to include same sex marriages. To elevate a gaggle of homosexuals to the same status enjoyed by the family is to degrade and even ridicule the status of the traditional family unit."  As if that wasn't crass and degrading enough, they go on to refer to same-sex unions as "evil," "perverse," and a "threat."

Representative Bienvenido Abante* of Manila, a Baptist pastor-turned-congressman, shares the same view.  The good congressman (photo below) said a host of classic homophobic things in a 2006 speech to Philippine Congress entitled "Rejecting a Culture of Death" at a time when he was, ironically enough, the chairperson of the Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights, of all things. 

Among his statements against the passage of the proposed anti-discrimination bill, some of which he said with a loud, fire and brimstone voice for added preachy effect, was this gem:  "[P]lease allow me to question the constitutionality of this bill on moral grounds. The Philippine replete with provisions that guarantee the sanctity of the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation and the development of moral character.  Perhaps it should be interesting to note for your information, that when American society defines a family, they define a family as two persons and a pet. Is that how the Filipino culture defines a family[?]" 

Hopefully some day, sir, hopefully some day.

I'm not an American, but this statement was nevertheless offensive to me.  American society and Western European societies share most of the same values, among them being inclusive to more than one type of family, which is something that apparently makes Bishop Abante nervous.

I never did understand where this fear of anything different comes from, but then again, I suppose that is one of the pillars of social (and religious) conservatism:  fear.  Fear of the unknown, the new, the 'foreign.'  And I still cannot understand how giving legitimization to families (which in turn strengthens families overall) is somehow a threat to families.

In Norway we don't have many Mr. Abante types.  We're accustomed to hearing exact opposite statements, like those of the Norwegian Secretary of Equality Anniken Huitfeldt (photo).  The official line of the Norwegian government is summed up in a 2008 statement of hers:  "Each and every person has the same worth.  It makes no difference where you come from, which faith you belong to, or who you love."  Just before the passage of the gender-neutral marriage law she also stated that "the new law won't weaken marriage as an institution, rather it will strengthen it. Marriage won't be worth less because more people can take part in it." 

Additionally, Norwegian State Secretary Kjell Erik Øie said this in a 2006 speech:  "The family does not only consist of a man and a woman who reproduce and bring up new generations together.  In addition to the standard family with mother, father and children, where the parents are either married or living together, many children grow up in single parent families with either the father or the mother as their main carer, or in newly formed family constellations with a stepfather or stepmother and half brothers and sisters, or they grow up with homosexual parents.  ...I want to put down the myth that [opposite-sex marriage] is the fundamental norm for relationships, and that same-sex marriage will weaken its position in society.  I believe that same-sex marriage will strengthen marriage, and that more people wanting to enter into marriage can be nothing but an advantage for the institution of family." 

He went on to conclude that "enabling lesbians and gay men to live their love-life with persons of the same sex without fear of sanction is an important family policy principle. This means taking the extended concept of the family seriously, because the greatest of all is love." 

I think it's safe to say that Mr. Øie and Mr. Abante do not see eye to eye here.

Religious conservatives seem to be fond of stirring panic.  Either that or they're just genuinely nervous people.  Case in point:  there have been groups on the Religious Right in the U.S. who have taken upon themselves the burden to inform the Earth that acceptance of same-sex marriage and families will bring about the destruction of marriage, and even the collapse of civilization.  Religious Right organizations in other countries often recycle this "information" and cite it in their own countries, the Philippines included.

One way to view the effects of same-sex marriage on the institution of marriage is to simply examine countries that have legalized it, such as my own country.  For some reason Norway, and our good neighbor to the east Sweden, gets picked on quite a lot from these groups and their "studies."  Being that I am a Norwegian, I think I might be qualified and able to inspect some of these claims...

One American named Stanley Kurtz says that marriage has been declining in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden and Denmark) since registered partnerships were legalized in the early '90s.  In reference to Kurtz's report, Tony Perkins of the infamous U.S.-based Family Research Council said, "indeed in Scandinavia where gay marriage has gained almost complete acceptance over the last decade, marriage itself has almost completely disappeared." 

Disappeared?  Well as a Norwegian that's news to me.

Please allow me to stick a bit of truth in here.  Mr. Perkins, if you're reading this please sit down because this may shock you:  Heterosexual marriage still exists in Scandinavia.  It has not been destroyed, nor have straight marriages broken apart because everyone suddenly wants to "go gay."  It is true that Sweden has the lowest marriage rate in the developed world, but the decline in marriages there occurred in an 8-year period that began in the 1960s.  That was long before gay partnerships were legalized there in 1995.  It really is an unintelligent argument to make that homosexual civil unions caused a decline in heterosexual marriages in Scandinavia, when the decline actually started 30 years earlier.

Denmark's marriage rate started to drop in the 1960s as well, as did Norway's, but then leveled off and has actually been increasing ever since the mid-1990s when, ironically enough, same-sex civil unions became legal.  Marriages (not just in Scandinavia by the way, but in all Western nations) didn't go through a period of decline because gay people were being treated with equality.  The decline was due to the growing economic independence of women and increasing numbers of couples that simply felt no need for the church or the state to sanction their relationships.  These trends were also seen in countries that did not and still do not recognize same-sex couples.

The logic of these organizations is skewed, in fact, the data presented is out-right incorrect.  Marriage is alive and well in Scandinavia.  As a matter of fact, what's being seen now is a bit of a resurgence in marriage as a whole since the opening up of marriage to same-sex couples.  This may be at least in part due to society seeing the value and importance of the institution of marriage, as being displayed by life-long same-sex couples who are not taking for granted being able to finally formally wed.  This seems to be spurring a renewed sense of the importance of marriage among average Scandinavians, who have been pretty much indifferent about marriage since the 1960s.  In short, it doesn't look like same-sex marriage is destroying heterosexual marriage; it looks like it may actually play a part in reviving it.

It is interesting that many religious conservatives seem entirely oblivious to the fact that what they call the "biblical traditional family" is actually unbiblical.  Polygyny (one man with two or more wives) is actually the biblical norm.  There are also other types of biblical marriages and families allowed and even commanded, such as Levirate marriage (where a widow must marry a brother of her deceased husband) and a particularly disturbing law which stated that if a woman was raped she must marry the man who raped her.  That'd be a happy home.

I'm left scratching my head when I hear religious conservatives claiming to be upholding biblical traditions on marriage and insist that marriage is only between one man and one woman.  They disregard many specific biblical commands associated with marriage, but it is not surprising because their definition of marriage is based on modern culture and has little to do with the Bible.  If they are truly for traditional biblical marriage values, they would be pushing for polygynous marriages, would allow marriage between cousins, as well as arranged marriages where girls in their early teens are married off to men in their thirties.  Yes those are all biblical family units.

The resistance is a prejudice that is rooted in tradition.  The real choice faced by society, as Bruce Bawer states, is not between traditional families and gay families, but between, on the one hand, the relative stability and monogamy of gay couples and, on the other, the relative volatility of the solitary gay or the secretly gay husband or wife.

The healthiest situation is one in which society encourages homosexuals to be faithful in their relationships, adhere to the same standards that apply to heterosexuals, and enjoy the same rights and privileges.

It is indeed sad that persons who wish only to uphold faithfulness, monogamy, love and commitment to another person are accused of actually destroying marriage and the family.

At the close of his passionate speech to Philippine Congress, Mr. Abante said "You might say I am old fashioned in a modern world. Yes, I am, Mr. Speaker. I am proud to be so." 

That is indeed unfortunate for the Philippines.

After the passage of the gender-neutral marriage law,
members of the Norwegian parliament gather outside parliament
to celebrate with a wedding cake

Link to essay on the Filipino family and ideas of marriage and family:  Pamilya

*Though Mr. Abante is no longer chair of the Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights, his record "boasts" of backing a bill that would pre-emptively criminalize same-sex unions in the Philippines.  The bill recommended punishments for both the couple applying for a marriage license and the minister officiating the ceremony.  The bill would have seen newlyweds sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and incur a fine of approx. US$3,200/€2,500.  If either of them work in the government, they would be fired and blacklisted from all public sector jobs.  Ah yes, civil and human rights indeed.

Back to top


KenKen said... Best Blogger Tips

I like how Rep. Abante is even posing in that picture with a Bible on his desk. He's so holy.

Tammy58 said... Best Blogger Tips

Norway is one messed up country! Your politicians even CELEBRATED approving a sinfull law with a wedding cake?!? Folks this is Satan at work!

tonyorlando said... Best Blogger Tips

Um, it's not messed up to treat everyone with the same amount of equality. And this isn't satan at work (whatever that means), it's called democracy at work.

Deen said... Best Blogger Tips

I agree on same sex marriage and I think it should also be implemented not just in the Philippines but worldwide.

Why do I think that same sex marriage should be legalize in the Philippines? Because marriage is a right. And every person has the RIGHT to marry anyone whether they are straight, gay, black, white, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, etc.

Another reason why I support same sex marriage is due to the passing of inheritance of a deceased partner. In straight couples, when a spouse dies, the widow or the widower will automatically acquire the inheritance of a deceased partner. Unfortunately, gay couples does not have this kind of right due to the lack of law towards homosexuals.

Fighting for the rights of every individual especially when it comes to same sex marriage does not mean you are enforcing your values to the religious people who oppose it. I don't care what religious people believe. Everybody has the right to practice what they believe in. What I'm trying to say is that we should give way for the minorities to have fighting chance.

Post a Comment

Please be decent and respectful, and please post all comments in English so that everyone can understand. Thanks!