Yawning Bread. 20 December 2009

Tough getting elected if gay


    

 

 

Filipino lesbian, gay and transgender group Ang Ladlad has been refused accreditation as a political party for the general elections next year. Casting his tie-breaking vote, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Jose Melo said Ang Ladlad advocated immorality and violated the "moral parameters" set by the Bible and the Koran.[1]

He conceded that such arguments "are possibly religion-based, but as a society, the Philippines cannot ignore its more than 500 years of Muslim and Christian upbringing, such that some moral precepts espoused by said religions have seeped into society and these are now publicly accepted moral norms."

He demanded that LGBT Filipinos must prove themselves "beneficial" to the country before they can exercise their civil rights and participate in politics. "Until the time comes when Ladlad is able to justify that having mixed sexual orientations and transgender identities is beneficial to the nation, its application for accreditation under the party-list system will remain just that," he added.

Comelec member Gregorio Larrazabal, among the 3 of 7 Comelec members who voted to approve accreditation, disagreed with the Melo's argument. He decried reliance on biblical and koranic provisions to sustain its finding of immorality, saying it "blurs the separation between Church and State."

This was the second attempt by Ang Ladlad to be registered for the party list elections. Its previous attempt in 2007 also failed.

The Philippines Constitution provides for 20% of the 260 members of the House of Representatives to be elected by proportional representation, chosen from a party list. 80% are elected by geographical districts. The intent of providing for 20% proportional representation, based on Republic Act 7941 which was signed into law on March 3, 1995, is to blunt the traditionally heavy representation of fief-based patronage politicians in Filipino politics by increasing the representation of interest groups (as opposed to personality-based groups), particularly of marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

During Congressional elections, voters cast two votes: one for a district representative and one for a party on the party list. Every 2% vote-share of the second votes cast entitles a party to one seat in the House of Representatives. Party list members are accountable to the party they represent and can be removed and replaced by it if they violate its principles or programs, or in the case of corruption.

Ang Ladlad had sought to be included in the party list, to provide an opportunity for LGBT (lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender) representation in the legislature.

This has now been refused. The written ruling from Comelec, prepared earlier in November, turned Ang Ladlad's justification for participation against them. It said the group's definition of the LGBT sector as a marginalised and disadvantaged sector due to their sexual orientation "makes it crystal clear that the petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs."

This reasoning flies in the face of the very aim of the party list system: To provide representation for marginalised and disadvantaged groups.

The Comelec ruling goes on to quote passages from both the Bible and the Koran (taken from internet site www.bible.org) that describe homosexuality as "unseemly" or "transgressive." It also said that accrediting Ang Ladlad would pose risks to the Filipino youth: "Should this Commission grant the petition, we will be exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith."

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Earlier this month, Houston elected an openly gay mayor. As reported by Time magazine:

Annise Parker, 53, takes the oath of office on Jan. 1 to lead the nation's fourth largest metropolis, with some 2.2 million residents. Currently Houston's city controller, Parker has been open about her sexuality throughout her political career and has three adopted children with her longtime partner, Kathy Hubbard.

 

 

How much did her sexual orientation contribute to or against her victory? The Houston Chronicle (15 Dec 2009, Gays celebrate acceptance in Parker's win) pointed out that:

Parker's victory was due, in large part, to the local perception that she was not "the gay candidate" -- in the same way that Barack Obama, although black, was not the black candidate and Hillary Clinton, although female, was not the female candidate. She was the experienced public official who happened to be gay.

Although voters initially got to know Parker in the 1980s as an activist on behalf of gay rights, they soon grew familiar with her as an elected official. She was elected six times, first to City Council and then as city controller. She never tried to hide her sexual orientation, but neither did she make it the key "data point" of her public identity.

In the early days, it was important that she define herself," said Grant Martin, who has run Parker's campaigns since 1997. "Her strategy was as much proactive as reactive. We didn't want her sexual orientation to be essentially announced to voters as a bad thing late in the game. So, in appropriate ways, we would announce it ­ listing in her campaign literature that she was president of the GLBT Political Caucus, things like that."

Still, the putative king-makers remained skeptical that she had a more ambitious political future. In the early days and weeks of her campaign, trooping around town seeking endorsements and money to run a credible campaign, she was told by denizens of the downtown towers, those with the power to flick open the money spigots, that Houston simply wouldn't elect a gay mayor.

With the business establishment skeptical that a gay candidate could be elected, money was a problem until she came in first in the Nov. 3 general election, Parker said. So she turned to her most reliable constituency, the gay community, the same people who had posted the signs, walked the blocks and made the election-day phone calls throughout her political career.

Before reading too much into her victory, it may be worth noting that firstly, she did not win outright in the first round of voting. She obtained 31% while Gene Locke, Houston's City Attorney, won 26%. These two leading candidates then had to face each other in the December 12th run-off.

The second thing to note is that Locke was African-American, a decided disadvantage in itself. Armed with endorsements from the police and firefighters' unions, Locke ran his campaign on law and order and a conservative ideology of spotless values and pious ethics. In addition to getting support from business, he also depended on financial and campaign contributions from anti-gay activists and conservative religious groups who went about condemning his opponent’s sexuality -- not always a winning strategy.

Finally, to put things in perspective, only 16 percent of Houston's registered voters bothered to vote in the run-off election; of these, 53.5% voted for Annise Parker.

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I have serious problems with this kind of analysis. To say that someone is not "the gay candidate" seems to suggest that to be electable, a person has to "de-gay" himself, that it's entirely in his hands.

It's not like that. What is more important is that voters have changed, such that they can see past a candidate's sexual orientation to his other qualities.

Some people can never see past sexual orientation -- or race or gender for that matter. They will always see a gay person as a gay candidate, or a Malay person as a Malay candidate.

When society has too many of such people, no matter much the candidate de-gays himself, or un-brown or un-feminise herself, he is not electable.

It is false to put the solution on the marginalised person; it rests with society.

 

In a totally different kind of election, the best performer in Britain's X-factor talent show only got only to 4th place. Danyl Johnston, a music and drama teacher, is widely believed to be gay even though he claimed to have dated both sexes. 

According to tabloid News of the World, however, Paige Bond, who managed the band that Johnson was once with, said Johnson has never been interested in women but was terrified that admitting he was gay would wreck his shot at stardom. She said: "He was so nervous the day he came out the closet to me. I thought he was going to quit the band. Then he said, 'I'm gay.'

"He was very specific. He didn't say anything about being bisexual. I didn't care if he was gay, but I got the sense Danyl was well aware of how being open about it could damage his career."

He might also have lost votes from reports that he was a bully towards other contestants, and was temperamental, although how well grounded these reports are is hard to say. British tabloids love a good bashing.

As a performer, he was outstanding even at his first audition. Simon Cowell called it "single-handedly the best first audition I have ever heard," and in waving him through, added: "All of London here, an almighty Yes."

 

 

 

 

Then despite this truly fantastic performance (below) of And I am telling you I'm not going by Henry Krieger, you can see the judges starting to tear him down. Louis Walsh told him (and the voting public) "You don't have the likeability factor."

Dannii Minogue was even worse. She took issue with his sexuality, telling him that he didn't need to "change the gender reference" in the song. Johnson had bravely used the word "guy" in the 23rd second to keep it authentic.

This uncalled for attack got Simon Cowell mad. "You can forget playing any of those games," he told the women. Then, reportedly to prevent the two female judges from ganging up against Johnson, he changed the judges' seating arrangements after that.

You can also see Johnson defending himself, saying "I am not ashamed" at 03 minutes 20 seconds.

 

 

 

The winner in the end, from phone voting, was teenager Joe ("I'm not gay") McElderry, whom judge Louis Walsh described as more of a musical theatre type of singer. In my opinion, having seen some of his other performances, McElderry's not quite versatile, though as Simon Cowell said, he was "commercial".

 

 

 

Even runner up Olly Murs was a better entertainer than Joe McElderry, bewitching his audience:

 

 

 

Finally, here's more of Danyl Johnson excelling in two very different genres:

 

 

 

 

 

© Yawning Bread 


 

Footnotes

  1. Source: Philippine Inquirer, 18 Dec 2009, Ang Ladlad issue splits Comelec. Link.
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