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Pacquiao, same-sex marriage and our kumpareng John

05:30 PM May 22, 2012
Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao

SAN FRANCISCO—So after some confusion, it’s now clear: Manny Pacquiao doesn’t want to put gays to death.

His views opposing same-sex marriage got twisted around, and given a more hateful spin when it was reported by a blogger.

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In fact, Pacquiao’s views got misrepresented twice.

The first was the most obvious: he didn’t quote the Bible passage that supposedly advocated death to gays.

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The second was less obvious.

In an interview with ABS-CBN, he said, “May mga kamag-anak akong bakla. Wala tayong magagawa kung pinanganak silang bakla.”

On the network’s site, it was correctly translated into: “I have a relative who is also gay. We can’t help it if they were born that way.”

But this statement got mangled in the story based on the same interview on Boxingscene.com. In that article, Pacquiao’s quote ended up as: “I have relatives who are gay. There is nothing we can do about having such relatives” — which made it sound like he was talking about having undesirable relatives.

What stunned many people was that the statement attributed to Pacquiao about putting anyone to death simply did not jibe with his public image as a soft-spoken, amiable sports celebrity.

He may pummel his opponents in the ring, but Pacquiao isn’t known to engage in the trash talk that some of rivals are fond of.  So it was pretty jarring to read that he was supposedly calling for a specific group to be put to death.

It simply did not fit the picture.

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Still, it is disappointing for those who think same-sex marriage is a right whose time has come – and count me among those who do — that Manny Pacquiao is opposed to it.

Pacquiao has already tipped his hand on what his budding political career is going to be like. He will toe the line of the ultra-conservative Catholic hierarchy on issues such as reproductive health and gay and lesbian rights.

Still, if we listen closely to everything he really said, Pacquiao’s views aren’t as narrow-minded as some would think. He may oppose same sex marriage and gay rights in general, but he apparently accepts gays and lesbians and the roles they have played in Philippine society.

His statement in the ABS-CBN interview “We can’t help it if they were born that way” is, in some ways, even progressive.  It’s certainly more sensible than the position of many opponents of same sex marriage in the U.S. who argue that gays weren’t “born that way,” that they chose an objectionable and immoral lifestyle and therefore don’t deserve any special rights. (It’s even viewed as an illness by more fanatical critics of gay rights.)

In an interview with TV personality Mario Lopez, Pacquiao also apologized to the gay community, saying, “My favorite verse is ‘Love one another as you love yourself. Love your neighbor.’ So, I love everybody.” That’s the same Biblical reference Barack Obama used to explain his change of heart when it comes to same sex marriage.

Of course, one has to wonder: now that he knows about the controversial Biblical passage advocating violence against gays, what does Manny Pacquiao the born-again Bible-reading fighter-politician think about it? But apparently, even the Pacman thinks it’s an extreme position.

We can’t expect Pacquiao to lead on this issue. But attitudes toward same sex marriage and gay rights in general have been shifting so dramatically over the past decade. Who knows if like Obama, he and many others may change their mind? (Granted, in a country where even divorce and condoms are officially rejected, that’s tough to imagine.)

For many Filipinos in the Bay Area, of course, granting gays and lesbians the legal right to marry is a no-brainer.

My wife and I have many gay friends and co-workers. We know of gay and lesbian couples who are parents like us. They celebrate and worry about the same things we do: our kids’ achievements, the challenges of raising them as decent and productive members of society, making sure they are healthy and do well in school, making sure they don’t do drugs or smoke and that they stay out of trouble.

But my wife and I have one thing they may not have: the protection of the law.

If I get seriously sick, my wife will be able to make decisions that a hospital or health care providers must honor. Same thing if I die: she would have the legal right to make decisions on such critical matters as our finances and even the welfare of our children.

Our gay and lesbian friends don’t enjoy these rights.

That’s true for one of our friends, John Manzon Santos and his partner Mickey Branca.

John, the son of immigrants from Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan, is our kumpare, the ninong of one of our sons. They’re in the process of adopting a child.

John also cited legal and some financial benefits of being legally married. But he pointed to even more important reasons.

“Society would see our relationship, a same-gender union, as legitimate,” he told me. “It would help normalize the diversity of ways commitment manifests between two people who love each other.

“Our parents, devout Catholics, are and have been so supportive of our gay union, and our aspiration to adopt children, even asking if/when they would be baptized,” he told me. “If same sex marriage was legalized, it would help our relatives feel more reconciled between their love of us and the family we’ve created on the one hand, and the hypocritical beliefs of their faith that, schizophrenically, says their children are evil etc.”

John has something in common with Manny Pacquiao. He’s also a champion athlete, having won gold and other medals in figure skating at the Gay Games held in 2002 in Sydney, in 2006 in Chicago and 2010 in Germany.

And he offers an understanding, even sympathetic view of Pacquiao’s comments on same sex marriage and gay rights.

“He acknowledged he has close relatives and friends who are gay (lesbian too presumably),” he said. “This is positive and courageous for any heterosexuals, especially world-famous people and elected officials like Pacman. By expressing his support he ‘models’ how to be ‘allies’ for queer people. His leadership role carries a lot of weight in this.”

“I believe that he, like Obama, is evolving, and that his position on same-sex marriage, the values of fairness and equality, values that we believe he embodies, will win the day.”

And a more sensible view has been winning over the past years as same-sex marriage laws have been passed in a growing number of countries and states in the U.S.

A recent New Yorker piece called it “a historical inevitability,” and compared it to another right that once was controversial: interracial marriage.

Yep, there was a time when a Filipino marrying a white woman, or an African American marrying an Asian woman, was viewed as a grave offense against society and even God.

Just 50 years ago, Pinoys were not only legally barred from marrying white women, some of them even ended up getting beaten and abused for daring to go out with them on dates.

As the New Yorker piece reminds us, just several decades ago, interracial marriage was still viewed as a serious social taboo.

“If you grew up in the 1960s and 70s, it was quite possible to know adults then who said things like, ‘I’m for civil rights. But marriage between Negroes and white? I don’t know,” Margaret Talbot wrote.

But by the late 1970s, she added, more than a third of Americans thought interracial marriages were okay, and that percentage just steadily grew.

Nowadays, only the most bigoted, most narrow-minded people would speak out against people of different races marrying.

On Twitter @KuwentoPimentel. On Facebook at www.facebook.com/benjamin.pimentel

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TAGS: gender, Manny Pacquiao, Pacman, Religion, Same-sex marriage
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