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Same-sex marriage, anyone?

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This week, the Supreme Court will conduct a historic oral argument over a petition seeking to legally recognize same-sex marriage — a matter that would surely polarize our predominantly Catholic country.

It was lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III who filed the petition on May 18, 2015, a few days after Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Falcis described himself in court as an “open and self-identified homosexual.”

In his petition, Falcis sought to declare as unconstitutional the provision in the Family Code that restricts marriages to only between a man and a woman, arguing that such definition could not be found anywhere in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Falcis’ is not only a challenge to the existing legal barriers to same-sex union but, in a larger sense, the doctrines of the major religious groups in the country on marriage as a divine established institution for the union between man and woman. He is also going against the existing cultural bias to the practice.

On the other hand, the reality of same-sex union is indisputable. The lack of legal recognition for such union does not deter two individuals of the same sex to live together like married couples do.

But in a country that does not even recognize divorce, Falcis’ assault on the ramparts of the existing legal standards of marriage could be quixotic.

There may be a middle ground between the contending beliefs and legal positions. House Bill 6595, principally authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, proposes to accord legal protection to all unmarried couples short of allowing same-sex marriage.

Alvarez noted the difficulties facing unmarried couples: neither can they declare their partners as beneficiaries in social security benefits and insurance plan nor are they allowed to inherit the property of their deceased partner, among other things.

The bill proposes to allow couples to enter into a civil partnership, whether they are of the opposite or the same sex, and provide such partnerships with civil rights, benefits and responsibilities.

Likewise, it seeks to protect civil partners from unlawful and discriminatory practices against them on the basis of their partnership status.

Unfortunately for Falcis, the bill is still pending before the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality.

The Falcis petition may falter, but, together with developments such as the House bill on civil partnership, it may open minds on the necessity of according everyone — no matter what his sexual orientation — equal protection of the law.

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