The best argument against same-sex marriage | Inquirer Opinion
Sisyphus’ Lament

The best argument against same-sex marriage

FILIPINOS, SPORTING #LoveWins hashtags and slapping rainbows onto their Facebook profile pictures, have been swept up in the euphoria over the US Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a fundamental human right. Law professors are heartened to see Justice Anthony Kennedy’s poetic Obergefell decision shared in social media. However, we must also read the powerful dissents and ask why we might prefer that our unelected justices decide this sensitive issue instead of our elected legislators.

Inquirer 2bu quoted teenagers opining that anyone with the capacity to love deserves to have his/her chosen relationship validated. Obergefell’s logic is equally simple. Forget “substantive due process,” “decisional privacy” and “equal protection.” It takes the simple premise that human liberty necessarily goes beyond physical liberty, and includes an unwritten right to make fundamental life choices. Choosing a life partner is one such fundamental choice and the decision of two people to formalize their relationship must be accorded utmost dignity.


The typical arguments against this simple idea are so intellectually discredited that Obergefell no longer discussed them. (My Philippine Law Journal article “Marriage through another lens,” 81 PHIL. L.J. 789 [2006], tried applying them to bisexual and transgender Filipinos.)

One cannot solely invoke religious doctrine, even if thinly veiled as secular “morality.” Religious groups may confront this issue but not impose their choices on others. Their often vindictive tone contrasts sharply with Kennedy’s, and increasingly alienates millennials who revel in individuality. Those criticized as religious zealots should at least strive to be up-to-date, more sophisticated religious zealots.


The most common argument, procreation, is also the easiest to refute. Philippine Family Code author Judge Alicia Sempio-Diy wrote: “The [Code] Committee believes that marriage … may also be only for companionship, as when parties past the age of procreation still get married.”

Another argument reduces marriage to a series of economic benefits and suggests a “domestic partnership” system to govern same-sex couples’ property and other rights. This parallels having separate schools for white and black children and claiming they are equal because both have schools. It implies that some relationships so lack dignity that they must be called something else.

Protecting the “traditional” definition of marriage is too subjective. Obergefell reminds that traditional definitions evolve and once prohibited interracial and accepted arranged marriages, and “it is unrealistic to conclude that an opposite-sex couple would choose not to marry simply because same-sex couples may do so.”

Recent last-ditch arguments alleged harm to children. No party to Obergefell contested that same-sex couples may build nurturing families after adopting or tapping medical advances to produce babies with related DNA. Prohibiting same-sex marriage harms children by making such families unstable, as only one parent may legally adopt and have rights in relation to a child.

With all these discredited, the Obergefell dissents simply raised that marriage is so central a social institution that it is better redefined by democratic process than unelected judges. Proponents may consider opponents homophobic, bigoted, narrow-minded religious zealots, but none of these disqualifies one from being a citizen. Chief Justice John Roberts argued that proponents should have relied on how popular opinion was rapidly shifting in their favor than ending all debate by court order.

Justice Antonin Scalia decried how the US Constitution was turned into a “fortune cookie” in a “judicial Putsch” that declared a radical unwritten right. Roberts cautioned that the first cases to use similar doctrine upheld slavery and struck down labor regulations in the name of laissez faire economics. Although invoking human rights is not subject to an election, it is wise to consult society in defining these, and Obergefell stressed the lengthy public debates the United States experienced at every level.

One thus asks why an instant judicial solution is more appealing than backing Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez’s proposed same-sex marriage bill. The Philippines has not had serious public debate given how we recently focused on reproductive health, and our high court has not even explicitly recognized “decisional privacy.” Further, the petition to legalize same-sex marriage recently filed at our high court is blatantly deficient.


The petition (like the anti-RH petitions) does not even identify a client. There is no actual Filipino same-sex couple, unlike the real Mr. Obergefell who sought to be named the spouse on his partner’s death certificate after their deathbed wedding. This violates the most basic rule that judicial power may only be used in an “actual case” and the high court should have instantly thrown out the no-case petition (like the anti-RH petitions). The petition also has glaring errors (like the anti-RH petitions). It invoked the Philippine privacy decision Ople vs Torres, which involved information in government databases and has nothing to do with the “decisional privacy” of US same-sex marriage debates. Even liberals should be hard-pressed to support this lest they be intellectually inconsistent and validate the anti-RH petitions’ worst features.

Any citizen lacking the patience to back Gutierrez’s bill has every right to short-circuit democracy by seeking an order from unelected judges. One hopes our high court insists that it be sought properly.

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React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan,

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TAGS: nation, news, Philippine Family Code, same-sex marriage, US Supreme Court
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