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LGBT anti-discrimination bill hurdles 2nd reading in Lower House after 11 years

House Bill No. 4982, otherwise known as the SOGIE Equality Bill, was approved by the House of Representatives on second reading. This means that the measure – which seeks to prohibit and penalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) – is a step closer to becoming law, the first time this went this far in 11 years.

SCREENCAP FROM THE FACEBOOK PAGE OF Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao

House Bill No. 4982, otherwise known as the SOGIE Equality Bill, was approved by the House of Representatives on second reading. This means that the measure – which seeks to prohibit and penalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) – is a step closer to becoming law, the first time this went this far in 11 years.

HB 4982 cites as discriminatory:

  • Denial of access to public services
  • Including SOGIE as a criteria for hiring or dismissal of workers
  • Refusing admission or expelling students in schools based on SOGIE
  • Imposing disciplinary actions that are harsher than customary due to the student’s SOGIE
  • Refusing or revoking accreditation of organizations based on the SOGIE of members
  • Denying access to health services
  • Denying the application for professional licenses and similar documents
  • Denying access to establishments, facilities, and services open to the general public
  • Forcing a person to undertake any medical or psychological examination to determine or alter one’s SOGIE
  • Harassment committed by persons involved in law enforcement
  • Publishing information intended to “out” or reveal the SOGIE of a person without consent
  • Engaging in public speech which intends to shame or ridicule LGBTQ+ persons
  • Subjecting persons to harassment motivated by the offenders bias against the offended party’s SOGIE, which may come in the form of any medium, including telecommunications and social media
  • Subjecting any person to gender profiling
  • Preventing a child under parental authority from expressing one’s SOGIE by inflicting or threatening to inflict bodily or physical harm or by causing mental or emotional suffering
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Any person who commits any discriminatory practice enumerated in the bill may be penalized by a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000; or jailed for no less than one year but not more than six years or both, at the discretion of the court. The court may also impose upon a person found to have committed any of the prohibited acts the rendition of community service in terms of attendance in human rights education and familiarization with and exposure to the plight of the victims.

The SOGIE Equality Bill, which used to be known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill, was first filed in the 11th Congress by Akbayan Party-List Representative Etta Rosales. That version of the bill was approved on third and final reading in the 12th Congress, but failed to gain traction in the Senate. It was again only in 2006, during the 13th Congress, when the ADB reached second reading.

This version of the bill gained the support of around half of the members of the House of Representatives, who either filed their own versions or signed on as co-authors. The bill is being championed by Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman,Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan Party-List Rep. Tom Villarin, AAMBIS-OWA Party-List Rep. Sharon Garin, Negros Ocicidental Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, An Waray Party-List Rep. Victoria Noel, Pangasinan Rep. Toff de Venecia, Bataan Rep. Henedina Abad, among others.

In her Facebook page, Bag-ao said that this development is “a victory for equality. We are moving closer towards realizing our aspiration for a fair and free society where no one will be discriminated based on SOGIE.”

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The Lower House’s version of the bill is expected to be approved on Third and Final Reading within the month before the House adjourns session for the October break. The Senate version, however, remains muddled; and if that version fails to pass, then this year’s successful effort at the Lower House may end up mimicking the 12th Congress.

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