WHY would a non-marginalized sector even need additional protection?
Manila Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. generated a firestorm on social media when he introduced a new bill, The Heterosexual Act of 2022, that seeks to protect the rights of heterosexuals so that they could freely express their views about the LGBTQIA+ community.
Abante, a Bible Baptist pastor, said heterosexuals must be able to proclaim their religious beliefs without interference and to freely express their views about homosexuality, bisexuality, and on transgenders and queers according to their religious beliefs and practices and to biblical principles and standards.
Preventing them from exercising these rights must be punishable with a fine of up to P200,000 and imprisonment of up to seven years, said Abante.
Abante, who described heterosexuals as “the actual and direct creations of God,” said their rights must be protected in the “spirit of justice, equity and fair play” since people are seeking to protect the rights of homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers.
In 2016, boxing superstar Manny Pacquio drew flak and lost his Nike sponsorship after he described gay couples, lesbians, and transgenders as “worse than animals.”
Pacquiao subsequently apologized for his remarks and went on to win a Senate seat the same year.
But as LGBTQ+ advocates and lawyers pointed out, heterosexuals are not even marginalized in the first place.
They enjoy rights denied to homosexuals and transgenders, such as the right to get married.
They do not get harassed for their choice of partner, or for their choice of clothing.
In contrast, members of the LGBTQIA+ community cannot get married to their same sex partners or even use their preferred bathroom or mall fitting room without generating hate comments and controversy.
For instance, in 2019, transwoman Gretchen Diez was detained for using the female restroom inside the Farmers Plaza at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City.
Just recently, transwoman and San Juan, Batangas Councilor Louis Marasigan was barred from using the women’s fitting room of clothing brand Zara in BGC, Taguig.
Zara later apologized to Marasigan and assured her that its staff would be trained to be gender sensitive.
‘Bigotry in disguise’
In objecting to Abante’s bill, TV host KaladKaren asked, “How can they grant this ‘Heterosexual Act’ when heteros aren’t really oppressed?”
She also said ensuring equal rights for members of the LGBTQIA+ community would not diminish the rights of others.
“It’s not a pie,” she said.
Another Twitter user said Abante’s bill was “really about religious bigotry in disguise,” and that it implies that heterosexuals can threaten queer people except gay people.
Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno also warned that Abante’s bill would just legitimize the oppression that the LGBTQIA+ community is experiencing.
The bill turns a blind eye to their everyday struggles, such as being denied service or being denied job and education opportunities just because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity and expression, Diokno said.
“Ginagawa nitong legal ang pagkait ng dignidad ng ibang tao. Anuman ang ating pinaniniwalaan, magkakasundo naman siguro tayong mali ito,” he said.
‘Pass SOGIE bill’
He called for the passage of the SOGIE or Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression Equality bill.
But the bill has been having a hard time hurdling Congress, where it had been the subject of much debate and discussion in the previous years.
Without the measure, the LGBTQIA+ community does not even enjoy much protection.
The SOGIE bill seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
It wants to make it unlawful to deny people access to educational or training institutions, the use of establishments, facilities, utilities, and health services on the basis of SOGIE.
It also wants to penalize the harassment of people or the encouragement of stigma on the basis of SOGIE in the media and educational textbooks.
The bill also seeks to prohibit the disclosure of sexual orientation in the criteria for hiring, promotion, transfer, designation, work assignment, dismissal of workers, performance review, and in the determination of employee compensation and career development opportunities.
Equality rights advocates also say that it would protect not just members of the LGBTQIA+ community, but everybody, as everyone has a sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Currently, there are seven SOGIE bills in the House of Representatives and three in the Senate.
But none are close to approval yet.
With the LGBTQIA+ not even getting additional protection under the law, why would heterosexuals even need Abante’s bill?