Akbayan Rep. Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III
Yesterday, at the regular media forum at the House of Representatives, I spoke about my support for same sex unions and my belief that, in the wake of related developments in other countries such as Ireland and the United States, we should begin the national conversation on the issue. To serve as an impetus for this discussion, I likewise expressed my willingness to file a bill legalizing same sex unions in the next Congress.
Responses to this declaration came swiftly and loudly. There were expressions of agreement and support, as well as a larger number of rather vociferous objections. There were those who opined that I should first focus on other issues, such as divorce, and those who dismissed my statement as mere grandstanding or an attempt to jump on the Obergefell bandwagon. Quite a few questioned my religious inclinations, with a handful just falling short of accusing me of outright wickedness or impiety. Several friends and colleagues told me that my decision to speak up on the issue was not politically advisable, and that I should have hedged or, perhaps more preferably, avoided the matter altogether.
This virtual avalanche of responses, naturally, led me into no small amount of introspection. Why DID I say what I said, and why now?
Thinking about it, I suppose the answer is simple:
I did not hedge, or quibble, or qualify, or avoid the issue because what I said was what I believed to be right.
The plain truth is, not speaking as a politician, or a party representative, or a member of Congress, but as a citizen and a human being, I believe that as a matter of human rights and human dignity, the State should sanction same sex unions in the same way it presently does heterosexual ones. I personally feel that there is no basis for the State to discriminate between the two, both as a matter of law and as a matter of equity.
This is not to say that the various religions that take it as a tenet of faith that marriages should only be between a man and a woman should be compelled to change their views — such a change, if ever, should come through their own processes, at their own time — but insofar as the State, and its secular instrument Law, are concerned, I think the direction is clear.
I acknowledge though, that there are those, in fact there are many, who disagree, perhaps violently, with me. And that is precisely why I think that we should have a national conversation on this issue. By all means let us debate and argue and discuss and contest, but let us TALK about it. Let us not sweep this discussion under the rug, and assume for everyone else that it is simply something not worth talking about right now. I for one believe that rights and dignity and equal treatment under the law are always worth talking about, and that is certainly the case here.
And if what we need to get this conversation started, and for more of our fellow citizens to join in, is for someone in Congress to propose legislation on the matter, then yes, I’ll only be too happy to do it. If that means that some people will hate me, or campaign against me, or condemn me for a hopeless sinner, then I guess that’s the price I pay for honestly expressing what I believe.
And just to be clear, for the few confused souls who think this is the only issue I am committed to working on, it is just one, albeit an important one, of my many advocacies in Congress. In my two years as a legislator, I think my record is already clear enough to speak for itself.
Thanks for watching and, oh, P.S. I’m also in favor of a divorce law.###