Countries wise to allow gay marriage

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2012, 12:00am


What is all the hoopla over Barack Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage? The US President is only following much of the world, not leading it. Only recently, he still said his position was 'evolving', making it sound like he was talking about biology. But then he came under pressure to state his position after Vice-President Joe Biden came out to say he was 'comfortable' with it. No doubt in the eyes of many Christian conservatives in the US, this president is really a vice president. True to Washington politics, all this polarising debate has become a spectacle. Obama still has to fight it as a hot election issue in November.

Without all the fuss and angry finger-pointing, many countries have wisely and quietly legalised same-sex marriage. Canada did it in 2005, though many provinces and territories already allowed same-sex marriage before that. It is sanctioned in many European countries, as well as South Africa and Argentina. These countries have shown that once you have done it, there is nothing to it. It's not the end of marriage, civilisation or morality. It just means gays and lesbians can assume a normal life like everyone else. If you think homosexuals are promiscuous, shouldn't you encourage them to marry and stay faithful to one partner?

Same-sex marriage is a worldwide development. Unfortunately, Asia has lagged behind; it's not even on the agenda of most gay rights groups. Just making homosexuality legal has already been a tough fight and remains so in many Asian countries. Sodomy was a crime on the mainland until 1997, and homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder until 2001. Hong Kong decriminalised it in the early 1990s but it was not until 2006 that the age of consent for homosexuals was lowered to 16, the same as for heterosexuals. In Malaysia, sodomy is punishable by 20 years in jail. Many gay activists oppose same-sex marriage as a matter of faith in the Catholic Philippines.

Still, progress has been made. The slurs and jokes prevalent against gays in Hong Kong culture in the 1980s and '90s have disappeared. Discrimination no doubt exists, but overt anti-gay behaviour is no longer acceptable.

The half-empty glass is also half full.