The Philippines is among the southeast Asian countries with a high degree of tolerance towards LGBTQIA people. It was the first Asian country to hold a Pride march, spearheaded by the MCC together with Pro-Gay Philippines, in 1994. Yet, it has no national law recognizing LGBT rights and union. It remains to be a generally conservative, predominantly Catholic society and any attempt to legislate laws against discrimination and for the protection of LGBTQIA people are met by violent opposition from conservative lawmakers and the Roman Catholic church.
The Northern Sanctuary MCC, being a radically inclusive ecumenical church, had been conducting LGBTQIA weddings or holy unions since 2010. The most controversial of these happened on June 26, 2011 when it hosted the country’s first highly publicized free mass wedding of LGBT couples where 8 couples exchanged “I do’s” before 4 clergy inside a bar filled with members of the local, national, and international press. It was also the same day when New York City (USA) legalized same sex marriage.
The union of two people willing to commit a lifelong relationship without regard to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression is affirmed and celebrated warmly in MCC because this is a true testament of how God lives in those who love.
We in MCC believe that God’s love is universal and unconditional. All people have a rightful place in God’s open table. When we come to God’s table, we come as we are with both our spirituality and sexuality. We proudly join God’s holy banquet with those we love. We celebrate that love proudly in our congregation and bless them. For love is too beautiful to be hidden inside the closet. It should instead shine brightly for all to see. 1 John 4:16 clearly states “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” The union of two people willing to commit a lifelong relationship without regard to their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression is affirmed and celebrated warmly in MCC because this is a true testament of how God lives in those who love. Despite the Philippines having no marriage equality legislations yet and despite the opposition of bigots to recognize LGBTQIA relationships, we boldly testify that there is no law higher than love, for love is the greatest of all laws. Love should be equal and legal for all.
The struggle for LGBTQIA equality has been gaining ground in many countries today and many states around the world have legalized marriage equality, with some countries also according adoption rights and gender recognition for transgender people. Asia saw its first state legalizing marriage equality in Taiwan, and measures are ongoing to have same-sex marriage legal in Thailand soon. This development has continued to be a source of inspiration for LGBTQIA people in the Philippines to persevere in the struggle for LGBT human rights and push the Philippine government to finally enact the Anti-Discrimination Bill pending in Philippine congress for almost two decades. While some Philippine lawmakers have proposed bills allowing for LGBT partners to enter into civil union, the measure has been immediately shot down by the religious right-wing conservatives. It may take a while for the Filipino LGBTQIA community to realize marriage equality and other laws protecting the community from discrimination on a nation-wide scale, but positive gains have been happening in the local government units. Many provinces and major cities have passed anti-discrimination ordinances. These are small victories that Filipino LGBTs celebrate amidst the absence of a national law.
And despite the non-recognition of LGBTQIA’s right to marriage, the MCC in the Philippines will continue to celebrate love and officiate LGBT Holy Union as a sacramental rite of the church for couples who choose to dedicate their love before the altar of God. For love is too beautiful to be hidden inside the closet.
ABOUT THIS MCC AUTHOR: Rev. Michael Angelo A. Sotero has been an HIV advocate since 1996 as a peer educator for Men who have sex with Men and Trans women. He has been a very vocal leader of the Baguio LGBTQIA community as an activist. Myke was one among the 5 pioneers of the Baguio Pride Network. Sotero pioneered the establishment of MCC Metro Baguio (now known as the Northern Sanctuary MCC or NSMCC) in February 22, 2009 when he was elected as its interim pastoral leader. Pastor Myke, who is currently the Administrative Pastor of NSMCC, was ordained as MCC clergy on September 19, 2015 by Rev. Elder Darlene Garner in Baguio City. NSMCC was awarded full affiliation to the UFMCC on the same day.