A divisive but necessary bill

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    FROM the moment of its inception, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identify Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill took on the character of being intrinsically divisive.

    In a highly religious environment that is Philippine society, the fight of the LGBT community for equality before the law and equal rights among Filipinos would necessarily be uphill.

    The community is already feeling the pinch, with the Senate providing the expected heat.

    Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the SOGIE bill will not pass the Senate even if President Duterte certifies it to be urgent. The Chief Executive had assured some groups in Davao City that it would be certified as urgent, but as usual, the Malacanang spokesman had to clarify the next day that statement. What Duterte meant, said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, was that he wanted a law against discrimination in general, just like the Davao City ordinance.

    The latest development may be gleaned from two simultaneous activities recently in the Senate. Sotto, Sen. Joel Villanueva and others gave a warm welcome to a delegation led by Rep. Eddie Villanueva, an evangelist and founder of Jesus is Lord Movement and the senator’s father. Villanueva’s group trooped to the Senate to protest against the SOGIE bill, and Sotto assured them that the bill will not prosper there.

    Meanwhile, outside the room where Sotto and the religious groups met, pro-SOGIE activists and advocates converged at the hallway near the session hall for an exhibit that showcases the struggle of the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer plus (LGBTQ) community for their rights.

    Sen. Risa Hontiveros, author of the bill, was among those at the exhibit called “Humanizing SOGIE” and she noted that the exhibit is a protest against the violence committed against members of the LGBTQ community.

    Hontiveros pointed out that there is now an upsurge of hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, citing the case of Jessa Remiendo, 29, a transgender woman who was killed in a beach in Bolinao, Pangasinan.

    While the Senate president is happy to announce that at least 15 senators will conspire to vote against the SOGIE bill, indicating that the “parties of God” (with apologies to Christopher Hitchens) had won, Hontiveros and other like-minded individuals are on the right track in pushing not just the measure, but the advocacy.

    The SOGIE bill might be divisive but it is necessary to keep the discourse alive.