Lawmaker proposes bill to ‘protect’ the rights of heterosexuals in the Philipines

Completely ignoring the fact that most countries’ current constitutions and longest-standing laws were designed to uphold heteronormative, patriarchal norms, one Philippine lawmaker apparently thinks that heterosexual rights and privileges are in such danger that he filed a bill that seeks to protect straight folks’ rights and their freedom to discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community.

Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., who is also a Bible Baptist pastor, introduced a bill called the “Heterosexual Act” that, among other things, aims to “protect” the non-queer majority’s right to “… adhere to, practice, proclaim, promote, propagate, defend and protect their religion and religious beliefs, convictions and standards without interference and/or abridgment”. It would also make it illegal to prevent, prohibit or interfere “… with the free exercise and enjoyment by heterosexuals of any of their rights.”

If these rights are violated, the bill proposes penalties ranging from prison sentences of 5-7 years as well as fines ranging from P100,000 (US$1,740) to P200,000.

The bill also adds that if the offender “is a public official, he or she shall, in addition to the foregoing penalties be dismissed from employment, shall be perpetually disqualified from holding any public office, and all his monetary benefits shall be forfeited in favor of the government.”

Maybe someone ought to tell Abante that freedom of religious expression is already protected by a little thing called the 1987 Constitution?

In his explanatory note, Abante argues that members of the LGBTQIA+ community  “are clamoring for ‘legislated rights’ and ‘state protection’ tailored for their specific kind and class, all in contravention to God’s law of creation and procreation and in utter defiance to His statutes and commandments, and the principles and standards of proper conduct and righteous living that He set for an orderly and morally upright society.”

The bill clearly did not sit well with members of the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies, especially amid the languishing of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) anti-discrimination bill in Congress, which was refiled this year.

Television personality KaladKaren, a transwoman, wrote on Twitter: “Again, giving equal rights to the LGBTQIA+ community does not mean fewer rights for others. It’s not a pie. How can they grant this ‘Heterosexual Act’ when heteros aren’t really oppressed? Ang galeng (How brilliant).

Drag Race Philippines runner-up Marina Summers said, “Equal rights for everyone doesn’t mean less rights for your so-called ‘direct creations of God.’ Oppressed ka teh? (You oppressed, sis?)

At kung ganyan din lang ang hulma ng “direct creations of God”, buti nalang bakla ako. (And if this is how the direct creations of God are shaped to be, it’s a good thing I’m gay.)”

Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno also chimed in. “The proposed Heterosexual Act only serves to legitimize the very real oppression experienced by LGBTQIA Filipinos now. This bill plays blind to the every-day-experiences of those denied services or opportunities in education and employment simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This legalizes the denial of dignity of another human. Whatever we believe in, surely we can all agree this is wrong. The SOGIE Law should be passed instead of this bill.”