Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Director of Mission Theology at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.
After examining last week the variety of laws and public opinions regarding homosexuality in countries in Africa with a United Methodist presence, this post examines the same set of questions for the Philippines, the only country in Asia with an established United Methodist presence.
On the legal side, the Philippines does not have laws criminalizing homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is not currently legal in the Philippines, though there has been an effort in the country's legislature over the past two years to pass a bill that would create same-sex civil partnerships. The Philippines Supreme Court also heard a case last summer that would legalize same-sex marriage, though they have not yet issued a ruling on it. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has changed his position on same-sex marriage several times, but currently supports it. If the Philippines legalizes same-sex marriage, it would become the second Asian country to do so, after Taiwan.
On the side of public opinion, Filipinos as a whole are rather accepting of homosexuality. In a 2013 Pew Forum survey, 73% of Filipinos said that society should accept homosexuality. That is a higher percentage than in the United States, and the results led to the Philippines being labeled "among [the] most gay-friendly in the world."
Religiosity does affect view of homosexuality in the Philippines, as elsewhere. Not only The United Methodist Church, but the Catholic Church, to which the great majority of Filipinos belong, views homosexuality as a sin. Yet in forming their views on homosexuality, Filipinos draw not only on religious teachings, but also on long-standing Southeast Asian cultural traditions in which gender is a more fluid category and sex roles and sexuality are not as rigid.
Despite the overall favorable views of homosexuality, Filipinos may be less accepting of the idea of same-sex marriage. The most widely distributed survey of public opinion on same-sex marriage found that only 22% of Filipinos supported it, while 61% were opposed. Yet, as in South Africa and Taiwan, it is possible for same-sex marriage to be legal in a country even when the majority of the population has expressed opposition.