Why an LGBTQ member strongly opposes the SOGIE bill

August 29, 2019 - 3:50 PM
Anti-SOGIE Bill
An LGBTQ member argued that the SOGIE Equality Bill is not necessary, citing three reasons. (Artwork by Interaksyon/Uela Altar-Badayos)

Despite the renewed calls of the LGBTQ community for Congress to pass the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) bill due to the experience of transwoman Gretchen Diez, not all of those who identify to be among its members have the same sentiment.

Ryan Borja Capitulo, an obstetrician and gynecologist, shared his views on the bill that seeks to criminalize discrimination against persons identifying as members of the LGBTQ community.

He cited three main concerns in a fairly popular post on Facebook.

Existing laws against discrimination

Citing two versions of the bill in the legislature—House Bill 4982 or the “SOGIE Equality Act” and Senate Bill 935 or the “Anti-Discrimination Act“—Capitulo argued that the bills are not necessary since there are already existing laws that “safeguard the rights of citizens against discrimination.”

“There are victims of discrimination because of their height, but do we need an Anti-Short Stature Discrimination Act? There are victims of discrimination because they are fat, but do we need an Anti-Obese Discrimination Act?” he pointed out.

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Capitulo enumerated laws in the Philippines that supposedly ensure “any form of discrimination is avoided.”

  • The 1987 Philippine Constitution
  • Labor Code of the Philippines
  • Civil Code of the Philippines
  • Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act
  • Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees
  • Revised Penal Code of the Philippines
  • Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995
  • The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

Capitulo added that the Philippines’ Magna Carta for Women likewise “seeks to eliminate discrimination” but falsely claimed that it “does not impose penalties.”

Under the Magna Carta, private individuals or private entities who violate certain provisions are bound to be “liable to pay damages” to the offended.

The SOGIE bill, meanwhile, imposes anywhere from fines to imprisonment for offenses of discrimination.

The Philippines is a ‘gay-friendly’ country 

Capitulo also argued that the SOGIE bill is not necessary since the Philippine society is “innately tolerant of LGBTs” or lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transexuals.

He mentioned the election of the country’s first transgender lawmaker, Rep. Geraldine Roman (Bataan), is proof of such acceptance.

Capitulo then added that he has never experienced discrimination “growing up, whether in school or at work.”

However, a 2018 survey released by the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce and research firm Cogencia reveals that local companies are not yet accepting of LGBTQ members in their policies.

It ‘violates’ people’s freedom of religion 

Capitulo also expressed his fear that the SOGIE bill might be used to “stifle or violate” people’s freedom of religion and their freedom to live out their faith.

“What will happen to a seminary or convent that will uphold Church laws by refusing admission to a transgender who wants to study and become a priest or nun?” he asked.

“What will happen to parishes and Catholic universities that will not allow or recognize LGBT organizations in keeping with their mandate to abide by Church doctrines?” Capitulo added.

Virgin Mother
Virgin mother and the child Jesus image at Taal Basilica, Asia’s largest Catholic church. (Interaksyon/Bernard Testa/File photo)

“What will happen to Catholic and Christian offices or companies like bookstores, travel agencies, radio stations, television networks or religious organizations that will not hire LGBT employees because it violates their faith-based beliefs?” he asked.

Capitulo mentioned that under the proposed measure, such scenarios would merit religious communities and faith-based organizations to be legally penalized for perceived discrimination.

Under the bill, violators can be sanctioned for up to P500,000 and be imprisoned for up to six years.

“We cannot expect the followers of the great religious traditions of the world to change their doctrines to accommodate a law that will violate their fundamental right to freely practice the very religion that they uphold,” Capitulo said.

Last week, Senate President Tito Sotto revealed that the SOGIE bill has “no chance” of passing in the upper chamber “if it transgresses on academic freedom, religious freedom and women’s rights.”

He made the remark following a public hearing on the proposed measure’s passage that was initiated by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality headed by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

Hontiveros, for her part, argued in a Facebook post that the bill “will not penalize people who practice religious or academic freedom.”

She added that it “will not dictate churches on their teachings or hiring process” as well.

Some enforced anti-discrimination laws outside the Philippines 

Other countries have certain laws that specifically prohibit discrimination against sexual orientation and religion or belief, among others.

In the United States, discrimination against certain employees and applicants of a job is criminalized under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The said law prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, physical and mental disability, reprisal and sexual orientation.

In Australia, it is prohibited to discriminate based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, marital or relationship status (including same-sex couples), familial responsibilities and pregnancy under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

The United Kingdom’s Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination based on their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex and sexual orientation. — Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos