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The changing world

Just about a week ago, the United States, the most powerful and arguably the most influential country on earth, legalized same-sex marriage. People with conservative moral and religious views must now be asking what is happening to the world today.

The US is joining 17 other countries around the world to become the 18th country to recognize same-sex marriage. With the US in the bandwagon, this has given the LGBT community around the world the added incentive to work harder in the hope that eventually, in the not-too-distant future, a lot more countries including the Philippines would follow suit and give equal civil rights to all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

In spite of tremendous strides in recent years, there are still a lot of obstacles to overcome. There are many countries whose cultures and laws do not allow same-sex marriages. But change is in the air.

Even those countries which were so against same-sex marriages in the past are slowly relaxing their laws to a degree that same-sex couples are accorded certain limited rights. China for instance no longer classifies homosexuality as a disease. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. Denmark, however, was the first country to recognize legal relationships between same-sex couples by allowing them to register as partners. Denmark became the second country to legalize same sex marriage. For us Filipinos, it is interesting to note that the country that brought us Roman Catholicism, Spain, recognized same-sex marriage in 2005. Mexico, the other country in which we have long historical ties recognize same-sex marriages in 31 of its states but is performed in only four. Of the 18 countries that recognize same sex marriage, there is only one in Africa and none in Asia. There is judicial approval in Nepal but no legislated recognition. Vietnam allows gay weddings but those who enter into wedlock are not entitled to any legal rights. Thailand and Taiwan have pending bills to legalize same-sex marriages but have not moved forward. It maybe that Thailand will be the first Asian country that will legalize same-sex marriages. Some suggest that the bill pending in the Thai parliament might be enacted by the strongman, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Many people think that same-sex marriage is a recent phenomenon. But there were same-sex marriages reported in the ancient world and if we believe some of the written stories, it would appear that the ancients had a more liberal view on the issue than their modern counterparts.

In Imperial Rome for example, there were historical reports of same-sex marriages. The Emperor Nero was reported to have married men two times. Same sex unions in Rome however, were banned by the Emperor Constantine II in 342 AD. What prompted the change in attitude? Perhaps morals changed because of religion. It is hard to say. Alexander the Great also had a constant male companion which has prompted many to believe that he was gay.

In the Philippines, as the news of the US Supreme Court decision was made public, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Feliciano Belmonte issued a statement saying that same sex marriage would be impossible in this country. This was echoed by Fr. Anton Pascual of CARITAS.

Given the stranglehold of the Catholic Church here, I would tend to agree that it would take a miracle for same-sex marriages to be allowed in this country. Yet, miracles they say do happen. And if a miracle does happen, maybe it should include the issue of divorce because we are the only country in the world today that does not have a divorce law. Ireland and Poland, two staunchly Catholic countries, have it, together with Italy, the seat of Roman Catholicism.

While the world around us is rapidly changing, our country seems to be stuck in a time warp on social issues. But there is hope because we cannot simply remain an island in a sea of change.

*****

Another of the changes happening all over the world is that there is no longer any safe place anywhere anymore. We only have to see what has happened around the world these past few days. Thirty-eight people vacationing in a beach in Tunisia were killed by a deranged man.  Twenty-seven people praying in a mosque in Kuwait were also killed by a Saudi national and people working quietly in a factory in France were attacked by a man brainwashed by Islamic militants. Even people enjoying a day in a park in Taiwan were hurt because of an explosion.

These are not the only cases in recent months. Take the case of the unstable airline co-pilot of a Lufthansa plane who decided to kill himself and took about 270 innocent and unsuspecting passengers to their untimely deaths. This is something that we only associate with suicide bombers in the Muslim world.

In the US, nine people were murdered in a historical church by a young white male with ties to a  white supremacist group. Yet, in spite of this kind of killing happening with regularity, people there are still shocked. To many people around the world, the solution to this problem is obvious, simple and clear:  Limit the proliferation of firearms. But nothing is simple in the US. Firearms can still be bought like screwdrivers and there will be similar killings in the future. The gun lobby is so strong that even the US President cannot do anything about it.

The advice therefore is, wherever you are, take precaution, be careful and be on guard all the time.

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