By Gel Santos Relos
Let us leave out the debate on whether same sex marriage should be legalized or not for now, and focus on what probably started as a candid and sincere response from Manny Pacquiao that has now turned into a public relations challenge for our Pambansang Kamao.
He was asked by a reporter what his opinion was about President Obama’s statement favoring the legalization of marriage.
Since Pacquiao is now a a bible ambassador in the Philippines, over and above his role as a boxer and Congressman of Saranggani, his reponse came as no surprise. He said he believes God only expects a man and a woman to be together and be legally married.
Unfortunately, his statemement was embellished by the reporter, and he was attributed words he said he never uttered. “I want to clarify that I did not say I wanted all gays be put to death”, Pacquiao said when he apologized to the gay and lesbian community on both American and Philippine television.
In a phone interview with ABS-CBN, Pacquiao said he is not homophobic, stating that he has a gay cousin and can do nothing if gay people are born that way. He stressed he was just did not want to go against the laws of God.
Despite the apology, however, Pacquiao maintained his opposition to same sex marriage.
The Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender community and their advocates, as well as some progressive and liberal minded people in the United States and in the Philippines took offense in his expressed position against gay marriage.
As we reported on Balitang America, the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance, for example, said they have lost their respect for Pacquiao, accusing him of perpetuating hate and violence [against the gay community]. Some called for boycott against Pacquiao and petitioned for Nike to drop him as endorser.
While a big majority of our Balitang America viewers voted in support of Pacquiao’s stand on gay marriage, and believed he should not be dropped by Nike and other companies as their endorser, most of them said he should stay out of US politics. They argue that he is here in the US as an athlete, and not as a public official.
In fairness to Pacquiao, he did not call for a news conference to impose his views on America. He was just asked a question, and he gave an honest but probably not the most politically correct answer.
But that is the price of being a celebrity, hailed as one of the most influential athletes in the world. Every statement he gives publicly is subjected to scrutiny and judgement.
This episode is but one of the many hurdles Pacquaio will yet be facing as a bible ambassador and a “changed man”.
While I believe he should respect gays and lesbians for who they are, for the choices they have made and the cause they have been fighting for, I hope neither politics nor the glitter of gold in pay per view or endorsements will make him flip flop on his position.
If indeed his conscience dictates that he is against gay marriage, then he should be firm in his conviction, no matter what the cost. Conversely, he should resist the temptation of demonizing those who believe otherwise, even if that would be the most politically expedient thing to do.