HB 5717: New name, same old homophobia | Inquirer Opinion
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HB 5717: New name, same old homophobia

05:04 AM November 10, 2022

Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante Jr. is at it again!

In my Aug. 18, 2022 column (“The fight for marriage equality”) on marriage equality, we briefly referred to House Bill No. 6919 loathsomely entitled “An Act Declaring Illegal Same-Sex Marriage, Providing Penalties for Violation Thereof, and for Other Purposes.” The bill’s progenitor? You guessed it! The honorable Abante.

Flash forward to Oct. 26, 2022, Abante attempts to legislate prejudice anew—but this time, with an iron fist wrapped in velvet glove. He cites the principle of equity to justify his most recent proposal: HB 5717, “An Act Recognizing, Defining, and Protecting the Rights of Heterosexuals and for Other Purpose.” (sic) He claims: “If, therefore, we seek to ‘grant’ and/or ‘protect’ rights to homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders and queers” then “we must also ‘grant’ and/or ‘protect’ rights to heterosexuals who are the actual and direct creations of God.” HB 5717, so Abante claims, is thus but the fruit of fair play.


Talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. On its face, HBs 5717 and 6919 may seem a world apart. No penalties for homosexuals here, so one might claim. Only special protections for heterosexuals. We will not be fooled.


New name. Same old homophobia.

It is both fascinating yet frightening to see the language of rights bent, broken, and betrayed to justify what is so clearly wrong. HB 5717 is no stranger to law’s ironies. Indeed, after citing Genesis chapter 1 of the Bible four times, Abante goes on to invoke Article III, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution, which codifies the right to the free exercise of religion. Abante, however, conveniently forgets that the very first part of that provision also contains the (non-)establishment clause, that is, the constitutionalization of the separation of church and state. The secular mandate that prohibits government actors, such as Abante himself, from, hypothetically speaking, transmuting religious dogma into legal doctrine. Much like my sarcasm, surely that irony is not lost on the good congressman.

(Abante likewise characterizes the LGBTQ+ as something “virtually unknown and unimaginable since time immemorial in our beloved country.” He overlooks the fluidity of gender entrenched throughout Philippine history, from the Tagalog deity Lakapati—described as a transgender deity of fertility and good harvest—to linguistic systems referencing the ’di tiyak and the walang kasarian.)

But perhaps the greatest irony of HB 5717 is found in Section 4 thereof, which provides for the “Rights of Heterosexuals.” This includes the right to adhere, practice, and defend their religion and religious beliefs without interference, to exclude therefrom others of different beliefs or faith; and the right to freely express their views on “homosexuality, bisexuality, and on transgenders and queers according to their religious beliefs and practices.” Going through this laundry list of rights, I couldn’t help but wonder why there would be a need to pass HB 5717 into law at all.

Heterosexuals would not need these rights legislated. Why, you may ask? Well, because they already have them!

It’s been said that the life of the law is not logic, but experience. And experience shows that it is ludicrous to think that heterosexual persons would need the same legal protections afforded to the members of LGBTQ+ community.


To illustrate this simple point, we need only look at the world map. Of its 195 countries, 69 criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity—11 of which impose the death penalty. Next, ask yourselves: How many countries criminalize heterosexual relations? Again, you guessed it: Nada! There isn’t a single case of systematic oppression or discrimination against heterosexuals.

The problem with Abante is how he portrays LGBTQ+ rights as “special claims.” He, however, fails to realize that the LGBTQ+ never claimed additional rights, but only the very same rights enjoyed by heterosexual persons. The call is for equality, while HB 5717 is nothing short of bigotry.


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TAGS: LGBTQ, same-sex marriage

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