The inevitability of divorce

What are the chances of a same-sex marriage law being passed in the Philippines when   divorce isn’t even legal here?                     

The issue of same-sex marriage galloped to the fore of global consciousness when, on June 26, five out of four justices of the Supreme Court of the United States legalized, in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage in all 50 US states.

Prior to this ruling, same-sex marriages were already being performed in 37 states and the District of Washington. The SCOTUS ruling extends equality of marriage across the entire country.

What’s not more widely known is that the US is only the 18th  country to legalize same-sex marriages nationwide. The first such bill was signed into law by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 21 December 2000.

As expected, the LGBTQ community and their supporters celebrated the SCOTUS decision in various ways, from joining Pride rallies (like the one held in Manila on June 27) to placing rainbow filters on their Facebook profile pictures.

Also as expected, those not in favor of the ruling, mostly the religiously inclined, posted on social media Bible verses against homosexuality and interpretations of scripture that declare the “end times” are nigh.

It should be pointed out that the SCOTUS ruling and others like it are legal concerns, and have nothing to do with religion.

What is also emerging, however, from the myriad postings of the netizens, is the clamor for the passing of a divorce law first, before one legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Philippines is the only country in the world – aside from the Vatican City - without a divorce law. Opposition from the Roman Catholic Church has in a large part prevented various divorce bills pending in Congress from making any headway toward approval.

The Reproductive Health law, another one that spent a long time in lawmaking limbo, also encountered heavy counterstrikes from church and conservative groups before it was passed.

The Constitution mandates the separation of church and state; the reality, however, is that both are inextricably entwined. Many government agencies still make Catholic Masses and blessings an integral part of their official activities.   Some lawmakers make decisions based on their religious affiliations. The Iglesia ni Cristo is famous for its “bloc voting” practice that gives them political clout as an organization.

The opposition to progressive laws and policies is rooted in religion and culture, tradition and politics. But history shows that shifts in the world’s cultural mindset comes around eventually, although at different paces.

For example: it wasn’t until 2013 that we formally adopted the K-12 educational system that the rest of the world has been using for decades; prior to that, only international schools operating in the Philippines used the global curriculum.

 It was when ASEAN integration was implemented that we felt the pressing need to get in step with the rest. In 2011, only the Philippines, Djibouti, and Angola had a primary to secondary educational system of less than 12 years.

In other words, it takes us longer to get there, but we eventually get there.

The culture of a society is socially constructed, meaning that the members of a society agree on its norms, values, and traditions via a consensus based on what works and what doesn’t.

Our society has been limping along since after World War II without a divorce law. The only legal remedy is annulment, and because of its high cost is accessible only to few. Others of the elite take advantage of divorce laws in Hong Kong or the US.

The majority of people in irreparably shattered or crumbling marriages who do not possess the same resources resort to cohabiting with new partners or engaging in clandestine affairs.

A divorce law will help put an end to the hypocrisy and misery, and give many people a chance to make a fresh start and a new life.

 The adoption of divorce and same-sex marriage laws in the Philippines will take years, even decades, but history shows that it is inevitable because it is necessary, and because the old ways no longer serve the people, nor make sense, nor are fair, egalitarian, and just.


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