Despite what it shows in surveys, that the Philippines is a tolerant country when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others (LGBTQ), granting the sector equal rights is always a difficult struggle and fraught with controversies. One of the most disputed issues is same-sex marriage.
The effort on the attainment of marriage equality met a majot setback when the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines “with finality” a motion to reconsider its previous decision of junking
same-sex marriage petition in the Philippines on 6 January. It said that “the said motion for reconsideration as no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision.” It added that “no further pleadings or motions will be entertained.”
This historic first effort in attaining marriage equality in the Philippines is speaheaded by young, gay lawyer Jesus Nicardo M. Falcis III. He filed a petition at the SC on 18 May 2015, challenging the 1987 Family Code, which limits civil marriage and rights related to it between a man and a woman. The challenged Family Code provisions are Article 1, which defines marriage as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman;” Article 2, which say that the requisites of a valid marriage include the “legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female;” Article 46, which considers nondisclosure of homosexuality at the time of the marriage as fraud and a basis for annulment; and Article 55, which says that homosexuality is a ground for a petition for legal separation.
Falcis said that these violate the Constitution that gurantees equal treatment.
Same-sex marriage is “of transcendental importance to the nation because of the millions of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Filipinos all over the country who are deprived from marrying the one they want or the one they love,” the petition says. “Those who pursue same-sex relationships despite the stigma are deprived of the bundle of rights that flow from a legal recognition of a couple’s relationship
— visitation and custody rights, property and successional rights, and other privileges accorded to opposite-sex relations.”
The suit was filed with petitioner-intervenor Ceejay Agbayani, pastor of LGBTS Christian Church Inc., against the Civil Registrar-General.
The SC en banc unanimously dimissed the petition on 3 September 2019, saying it failed to comply with the “principle of hierarchy of courts and failed to raise an actual, justiciable controversy.”
It futher said that “judicial adjudication entails ruling, either in the affirmative or in the negative, on issues propelled by actual controversies” and that it is through “the existence of actual facts and real adversarial presentations that this Court can fully weigh the implications and consequences of its pronouncements.”
“Adjudication assures arguments between parties with respect to the existence and interpretation of fundamental freedoms. On the other hand, legislation ideally allows democratic deliberation on the various ways to assure those fundamental rights,” SC said. “The process of legislation exposes the experiences of those who have been oppressed, ensuring that this be understood by those who stand with the majority. Often public reason needs to be first shaped through the crucible of campaigns and advocacies within our political forums before it is sharpened for judicial fiat.”
After the final ruling, religious organizations rejoiced despite the fact that the petition pertains only to civil marriages, which should be made available to all and does not pertain to marriages in their churches.
On the other hand, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), encouraged the community to keep on fighting. The CHR spokesman, lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, relased a statement on 9 January, saying, “Despite the decision, we find hope that the Court recognized the long history of the struggles of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and other gender and sexual minorities (LGBTQI) for equality, including freedom from being discriminated for their choice of relationship.”
“One with the cause, we encourage the LGBTQI community and its allies to press on in spite of this hurdle and continuously find ways to claim the right to be treated justly as humans whose rights are equal with everyone else,” she said. “We also call on the government, particularly Congress, to review current laws and policies that apply to this matter and ensure that provisions be free of language that may discriminate and perpetuate violences against specific groups, more so if they are already vulnerable and marginalised under current contexts.”