Compared to other countries in Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines is more tolerant of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. A study by Pew Research Center shows that 73% of Filipinos agree that homosexuality should be accepted.
However, that acceptance has not translated to legislation that would allow people of the same gender to get married. A survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that 61% of 1,200 respondents still oppose same-sex marriage.
This dissonance can be attributed to many factors such as the strong influence of the Catholic Church, which hasn’t wavered in its stand that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Falcis vs Civil Registrar Case
On June 19 and 26, the Supreme Court (SC) listened to the oral arguments for the case, “Falcis v Civil Registrar (GR. No. 2171910).” Atty. Jesus Falcis III’s had filed the petition in May 2015, claiming that not legalizing same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Article 1 of the Family Code defines marriage as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life”.
Falcis argued that The Family Code violates the equal protection of laws under Sec. 1, Article 3 of the Constitution because it treats same-sex couples differently from straight couples and denies them their fundamental rights.
The case is still ongoing and so far, the Supreme Court has mostly ruled against the procedural errors of Falcis’s petition such as disregarding the hierarchy of courts.
However, during the oral arguments, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio noted that same-sex civil unions uphold the constitutional right to freedom of association as anyone is free to associate and enter into a civil contract with anyone they wish. Carpio said that the partnership same-sex couples constitutionally have a right to is called a civil union and not marriage.
Same-sex civil unions
While this was going on, House Bill 6595 or the Civil Partnership Act, was being deliberated in Congress after House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed the bill in May 2018.
The Civil Partnership Act seeks to legalize same-sex civil unions or partnerships. Under this bill, a civil union will grant same-sex couples the same rights and protections as heterosexual couples. These include:
- Inheritance of wealth and property
- Right to adopt children
- Insurance and retirement benefits from the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and other state agencies
- Ability to make important decisions for their spouse (such as critical medical conditions and funerals)
- Protection against discriminatory practices (for example, employers who refuse to hire based on an applicant’s civil partnership status)
- Marital communication privileges which prohibits the couple from being forced to testify against one another
Laws on martial relations, such as donations by reason of marriage, legal separation, child custody and support, property division, and maintenance and spousal support will also apply to couples in a civil partnership. Anyone listed under administering officers for marriages in Article 7 of the Family Code can also administer civil partnerships.
Representative Geraldine Roman, the first transgender legislator in the Philippines and one of the principal authors of the bill, says that a civil partnership is free from religious connotations, which would appease the sector, while conferring the couple the same legal rights, obligations, and protections as married heterosexuals.
However, the bill requires same-sex couples to have shared a common domicile for at least two years before applying for the license. Their relationship must also be publically known. Furthermore, should a same-sex couple in a civil partnership wish to adopt, they can only do so if there are no married couples willing to adopt the children.
The bill is still being deliberated in Congress and is still subject to revision.
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Source: Philippine Statistics Authority