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Lawmakers come on board on LGBT hate crimes

Following consultations with sectoral organizations and stakeholders, lawmakers are now eyeing at pushing for legislations that will “work towards the achievement of genuine equality and ultimate protection of fundamental rights of all persons against hate-motivated crimes.”

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Philippine Congress

The seven-member Makabayan bloc, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez and Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao in the House of Representatives took measures to address hate-motivated crimes and violence directed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.

The Makabayan bloc – composed of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, and Gabriela Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus – filed a resolution on October 29 to seek for a congressional inquiry “on reported cases of hate crimes committed partly or wholly on the basis of prejudice over a person’s age, race, religion, sexuality, gender preference, ethnicity, nationality, disability, political belief or affiliation with the end view of crafting a landmark legislation against said hate crimes.”

Following a series of consultations with sectoral organizations and stakeholders, the Makabayan solons filed House Resolution No. 1625 for Congress to perform its “constitutional obligation to work towards the achievement of genuine equality and ultimate protection of fundamental rights of all persons against hate-motivated crimes.”

Meanwhile, “Akbayan is seriously studying the possibility of filing an anti-hate measure that will increase the protection of members of the LGBT community who remain vulnerable to various forms of violence and crimes due to their sexual preference. We have tinkered with this before and Jennifer’s killing has created a new urgency,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez added that their bill under consultation aims to achieve three reforms in strengthening protection of the LGBT community.

Firstly, the bill is being studied in relation to the constitutional freedoms in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, including freedom of expression. This is to ensure that it will not muzzle nor penalize the people’s freedom of expression but violent crimes which target, among others, people because of their SOGIE.

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Secondly, “we are studying further revisions to the Revised Penal Code which will either (a) include as an aggravating circumstance to crimes against persons or property the circumstance of committing such crimes because of a bias against one’s SOGIE or (b) qualify a crime against person or property to a different crime of higher penalty whenever the perpetrator committed the crime because of a bias against one’s SOGIE (for example, instead of homicide the crime will be murder), with a presumption that whenever the victim is an LGBTI person then the crime is already qualified.”

Lastly, “we are also studying the manner by which ‘hate crimes’ may be proven, given the existing definitions of crimes.”

PARTICIPATORY APPROACH

Ridon, the lead author of HR 1625, explained that there is a need for “active engagement and participation” of sectors that will be covered by the envisioned anti-hate crime bill.

“That’s why we are starting the process with a resolution in aid of legislation. We don’t want to jump off the boat and go file a bill without providing maximum room for participation of organizations of the LGBT community, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and other sectors covered by the envisioned legislation,” Ridon said.

HR 1625 traces the history of anti-hate crime legislation in the world, and aims to come up with a committee report that will serve as basis for drafting the Anti-Hate Crime Law.

“In HR 1625, we identified key issues that need to be covered by the Anti-Hate Crime Bill. This includes criminal-penalty-enhancement provisions, provisions that require administrative agencies to collect hate crime statistics, and of course provisions on education and welfare protection of vulnerable sectors,” Ridon explained.

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“We are currently in consultation with the LGBT community for the necessary actions that will put an end to these unwarranted hate-motivated acts and hopefully eliminate further violence and loss of lives among its members. Further, we hope to set in place the fitting penalties that will deter the perpetrators from committing these acts and allow the LGBT people to openly express their sexual orientation,” Gutierrez said.

PROTECTION FOR VULNERABLE SECTORS

The seven lawmakers of Makabayan said that their resolution will pave the way in the crafting of a law that will protect vulnerable sectors from hate crimes or “criminal offenses done based on actual or perceived prejudice over an individual’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or ethnicity.”

“The death of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude allegedly in the hands of a US Marine has reignited the campaign to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement and likewise spurred public demand for the legislation of an anti-hate crime law,” the Makabayan solons noted in HR 1625.

“Recent deaths of members of the LGBT community points to the urgency of an anti-hate crime legislation. In the past, members of vulnerable groups do not only feel discrimination in employment and social services, but also fall victim to crimes motivated by hate over their protective characteristic. It is timely and of utmost necessity that the State, through Congress, enact and enforce anti-hate crime laws for the protection of vulnerable sectors and to determine criminal liabilities of offenders,” they further noted.

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SWIFT PASSAGE OF ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BILL

Gutierrez and Bag-ao also urged Congress to swiftly and immediately pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill, saying this will usher in much-needed action to secure the rights and welfare of the LGBT community.

Filed on July 1, 2013, House Bill 110 seeks to prohibit all forms of discrimination and to provide penalties against discriminatory practices on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

According to Section 3(c) of the bill: “Discrimination shall be understood to imply any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference which is based on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether actual or perceived, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, an equal footing of all rights and freedoms.”

“This measure will ultimately bring forth a culture of acceptance of LGBTs in our society. It does not prescribe special rights. Instead, it cements into our legal system the basic rights found in the Constitution and in international agreements,” said Bag-ao, the principal author of the bill.

Bag-ao called on her fellow legislators to act against any form of discrimination against the LGBT community.

“It is our duty to create safer spaces for Filipino LGBTs. By passing legislation against discrimination and hate crimes, we can ensure that the rights, welfare, and dignity of our fellow citizens are upheld and protected. Now, more than ever, concrete action on the part of Congress is an imperative. Clearly, in the murder of Jennifer, our struggle goes beyond discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Our fight extends to hate that is translated into violence,” Bag-ao said.

NEWSMAKERS

Violence and adversity in early life can alter the brain

People exposed to childhood adversity may also be more likely to have brain changes in adolescence that indicate an altered response to threat, according to a new study.

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Childhood adversity is a significant problem, particularly for children growing up in poverty. Those who experience poverty have a much higher risk of being exposed to violence and suffering from a lack of social support, which can have long-term consequences including higher rates of diabetes, cancer, and other diseases.

People exposed to childhood adversity may also be more likely to have brain changes in adolescence that indicate an altered response to threat, according to a new study by University of Michigan’s Christopher Monk and Leigh Goetschius, and others. However, social supports may act as a buffer and reduce the negative effects of early-life stress.

The researchers analyzed data collected from 177 youth aged 15-17 who had taken part in an American study that had collected data since the participants since birth. Around 70 percent of the participants studied were African-American and almost half lived below the poverty line.

The researchers scanned the brains of the participants with MRI, focusing on the white matter connectivity between several key areas: the amygdala, which is known to play a role in fear and emotion-processing, and specific regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Earlier work by this research team established that reduced connectivity between the two brain regions is linked to a heightened response to threats by the amygdala.

The scans suggest a link between violence exposure and social deprivation in childhood. When the children in the study experienced more violence (abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence, or neighborhood violence) and social deprivation (child neglect, lack of neighborhood cohesion, and a lack of maternal support), the researchers observed reduced connectivity between the amygdala and the PFC in adolescence.

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Neither variable was on its own linked to brain changes. When a child experienced violence but also had social support, the reduced connectivity wasn’t evident. The same was true when a child experienced social deprivation but no violence. “The implication is that social deprivation may exacerbate the effects of childhood violence exposure when it comes to these white matter connections. Social support, on the other hand, may act as a buffer,” says Monk.

The researchers were surprised to find no link between brain changes and mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. But because mental health issues often arise during the transition from adolescence to one’s 20s, they plan to follow up with the study participants to track mental health and determine whether the associations between violence exposure, social deprivation, and brain changes persist.

It is worth noting that LGBTQIA people are more likely than their peers to live in poverty, according to a 2018 report that showed how indicators of economic disparity including food insecurity, housing instability, low-wage earning potential and unemployment and under-employment are all heightened for LGBTQIA communities.

Specifically, the report found that 25% of LGBTQIA people experienced a period over the last year when they did not have enough money to feed themselves or their family, compared to 18% of non-LGBTQIA people.

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NEWSMAKERS

Only 35.6% of women, 23.2% of men say trans athletes should participate in sports aligned with their gender identity

Also, the study shows people who have contact with transgender, gay and lesbian people as well as those with stronger egalitarian attitudes are more favorable toward transgender participation, whereas those with high moral traditionalism are more opposed.

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In the US, as several states draft legislation that would force student-athletes to play as their gender identified on their birth certificate instead of on a team that matches their gender identity, a team of political scientists investigated underlying factors that drive public opinion on transgender athletes.

The new study shows while women in general are more supportive than men of transgender athletes participating in sports by gender identity instead of biological sex, women who are sports fans are more likely to oppose it, holding views that resemble male sports fans.

The research recently published in the journal Sex Roles investigated public attitudes toward the participation of transgender people in sports by using data from a 2015 survey of 1,020 adults across the U.S.; the data was previously used by the same researchers to analyze public opinion on a variety of transgender rights issues.

Dr. Jami Taylor, professor of political science and public administration at The University of Toledo who focuses on transgender politics and policy, is part of the team who found that attitudes about transgender athletes are strongly shaped by an individual’s characteristics, political values and personality traits.

Also, the study shows people who have contact with transgender, gay and lesbian people as well as those with stronger egalitarian attitudes are more favorable toward transgender participation, whereas those with high moral traditionalism are more opposed.

“This is a very complicated area, and there are legitimate concerns about fairness for both transgender athletes and those who are not transgender,” said Taylor, author of the 2017 book “The Remarkable Rise of Transgender Rights.” “We need to have thoughtful policies that ensure fair competitions but also ensure that transgender athletes aren’t discriminated against. As governments, nonprofits and businesses begin to craft policies that decide how and with whom transgender athletes will compete in sports, they need to avoid one-size-fits-all solutions because of the complexity of the issues.”

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“Given the gendered nature of sports and the resistance to the issue among sports fans – both male and female – policymakers will likely need to tread carefully and should have a care in this area as they craft policy solutions. Our work might be helpful to inform policymakers, as well as advocates who promote inclusion.”

Research contributors include Taylor; Dr. Andrew Flores, assistant professor in the Department of Government at American University and lead author of the study; Dr. Donald Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas; Dr. Daniel Lewis, associate professor of political science at Siena College; Dr. Patrick Miller, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas; and Dr. Barry Tadlock, professor of political science at Ohio University.

Current policy depends on the position of governing bodies, such as the NCAA at the collegiate level, and applicable laws that may vary by location. For instance, California law requires that transgender students be treated according to their gender identity, not biological sex.

The issue, according to lawmakers proposing new legislation in New Hampshire, Washington, Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri, is whether transgender-rights protections are leading to unfair competition in women’s sports, referencing male-to-female transgender students and arguing they have natural physical advantages over biological females.

However, the study cited a female-to-male case: Mack Beggs’ victory in the Texas Class 6A girls’ state wrestling championship in 2017, even though the female-to-male transgender student started his transition two years prior and took testosterone injections.

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“It was a ridiculous situation. He wanted to wrestle with the boys and received harsh treatment from fans when he was forced to compete with girls,” Taylor said. “Due to his success, parents accused him of cheating, but the rule in Texas was he had to compete according to the gender on his birth certificate, which was a girl. If he was in California, he would’ve competed against boys.”

The study finds that 35.6% of women agreed with allowing transgender athletes to participate in sports aligned with their gender identity, compared to 23.2% of men.

As the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo approach, Taylor calls the Olympics reasonably inclusive to transgender athletes and commends the International Olympic Committee for its attention to both human rights and fair competition.

“The International Olympic Committee no longer requires transgender athletes to have had surgery, but there is a strict requirement around hormonal management,” Taylor said. “It’s far less restrictive for female-to-male athletes than for male-to-female athletes, which seems to be a reasonable attempt to grapple with this complex issue. Importantly, the IOC’s approach looks at evidence in this evolving area.”

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NEWSMAKERS

Boys who are bullied online may have more risky sex

Adolescent boys who are cyber bullied pursue risky sexual behaviors more frequently than girls who are cyber bullied. Results may reflect a culture of toxic masculinity and highlight the need to pay special attention to male victims, who may be reluctant to self-identify, and therefore, at greater risk of negative health outcomes.

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Peer victimization is associated with adverse psychological and behavioral problems, including depression and risky health behaviors such as substance use and unprotected sex with multiple partners. This is according to a A collaboration of researchers at Louisiana State University, University of Missouri, and University of Tennessee in the US.

The study, “Peer victimization, depression and sexual risk behaviors among high school youth in the United States: a gender-based approach“, by Youn Kyoung Kim, Mansoo Yu, Courtney Cronley and Miyoun Yang has been published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health. The authors examined gender differences in the relationships between four types of peer victimization (school bullying, cyber bullying, physical dating violence, and sexual dating violence), depression, and risky sexual behaviors among US high school students.

In 2015, approximately one-third of high school students in the US alone reported having sex recently. Of these, 43% had not used a condom, 21% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before sexual intercourse, and 14% had not used any contraception.

Recent research suggests that adolescent boys who are cyber bullied pursue risky sexual behaviors more frequently than girls who are cyber bullied. Results may reflect a culture of toxic masculinity and highlight the need to pay special attention to male victims, who may be reluctant to self-identify, and therefore, at greater risk of negative health outcomes.

For this newer study, the researchers analyzed the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior System Survey, a nationally representative survey of US high school students containing data from 5,288 individuals who reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. The results show that all types of peer victimization are related to symptoms of depression for both females and males, and physical and sexual dating violence are associated with increased risky sexual behaviors. However, school bullying does not predict risky sexual behaviors. Among males, cyber bullying predicts increased risky sexual behaviors and the relationship is greater when a boy is depressed.

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Bullying is, of course, a big issue for members of the LGBTQIA community.

In April 2018, for instance, a study that investigated gender expression and victimization of youth aged 13-18 found that the most gender nonconforming students reported higher levels of being bullied, were more likely to report missing school because they feel unsafe, and are most likely to report being victimized with a weapon on school property.

The effects of bullying are also long-term. In November 2018, another study found that 35.2% of gay/bisexual men who had experienced frequent school-age bullying experience frequent workplace bullying. Among lesbian women, the figure was 29%.

“It is critical to create safe and private spaces for boys to share their experiences, and we hope that this research will encourage schools to consider efforts to destigmatize victimization through peer mentorship and open communication,” said Youn Kyoung Kim.

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NEWSMAKERS

Progressive gender beliefs in teen boys may be protective against violence

Adolescents with more equitable gender attitudes – those who felt boys and girls deserve equal opportunities and respect – had lower odds of reporting violent behaviors.

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Teenage boys who witness their peers abusing women and girls are much more likely to bully and fight with others, as well as behave abusively toward their dates, compared to teenage boys who don’t witness such behaviors, according to an analysis led by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Conversely, the study found that adolescents with more equitable gender attitudes – those who felt boys and girls deserve equal opportunities and respect – had lower odds of reporting violent behaviors. The results are published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“The #MeToo movement brought to light how pervasive sexual violence and derogatory behavior toward women is in our society,” said lead author Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, public health and clinical and translational science at Pitt. “Our findings highlight the wide-ranging impact that witnessing sexual harassment and dating violence has on our teenage boys, and present an opportunity to teach adolescents to challenge negative gender and social norms, and interrupt their peer’s disrespectful and harmful behaviors.”

This study is the first to gather information from U.S. male adolescents in community-based settings, rather than schools or clinics, about multiple types of violence, including bullying and sexual harassment, and the role of gender norms and peer behaviors.

Miller and her team surveyed 866 13- to 19-year-old boys at after-school programs, libraries, churches and other youth-serving organizations in 20 lower-resource Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The teens completed the surveys anonymously between August 2015 and June 2017 as part of a larger study evaluating the effect of a prevention program to reduce sexual violence. Seventy percent of the teens identified as African American and 21% as Hispanic, multiracial or ‘other.’

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Of the 619 boys who had ever dated, 1 in 3 reported using abusive behavior toward someone they were dating in the previous 9 months. Sexual harassment, whether dating or not, was also common, with 485, or 56%, saying they’d engaged in such behavior. And 587, or 68% of the respondents, said they’d been in physical fights, or threatened or injured someone with a weapon.

Boys who said they’d witnessed their peers engaging in two or more of nine different harmful verbal, physical or sexual behaviors toward women and girls – such as making rude or disrespectful comments about a girl’s body – had 2 to 5 times higher odds of engaging in a variety of violent behaviors, some having nothing to do with women or dating.

“This reinforces that pressure to conform to stereotypes about masculinity that perpetuate harmful behaviors toward women and girls is also associated with getting in a fight with another guy,” said Miller, who is also director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at UPMC Children’s. “These behaviors aren’t happening in silos – if we’re going to stop one, we need to also be addressing the other.”

Interestingly, the research team did not find that teens who reported having more gender equitable attitudes were any less likely to engage in homophobic teasing, something three-quarters of the survey respondents endorsed.

“It’s a puzzling and troubling finding. We believe it may be because these teens have normalized homophobic teasing – it is so commonplace, they may see it as a form of acceptable, possibly even pro-social, interaction with their peers,” said Alison Culyba, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at UPMC Children’s. “This study illustrates the need for cross-cutting prevention strategies that address multiple aspects of youth violence.”

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As part of their study, this team of researchers are evaluating a sexual violence prevention program called Manhood 2.0. Miller has also conducted research on a program called Coaching Boys into Men that guides middle and high school coaches in talking with their male athletes about stopping violence against women and girls. Both Manhood 2.0 and Coaching Boys into Men involve reinforcing more equitable gender attitudes and increasing the number of youth who intervene when witnessing peers’ disrespectful behavior.

Kelley A. Jones, Ph.D., of UPMC Children’s and Pitt, is senior author of this research. Additional authors are Alison J. Culyba, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Taylor Paglisotti, B.A., Michael Massof, M.P.A., and Qi Gao, M.P.H., all of UPMC Children’s and Pitt; Katie A. Ports, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Jane Kato-Wallace, M.P.H., of Promundo-US in Washington, DC; Julie Pulerwitz, Sc.D., of the Population Council in Washington, DC; Dorothy L. Espelage, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Kaleab Z. Abebe, Ph.D., of Pitt.

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NEWSMAKERS

From as young as 4, children see males as more powerful than females

When the children had to consider their power relation with a person of the same gender as themselves, the girls and boys both largely identified with the dominant character.

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As early as 4 years old, children associate power and masculinity, even in countries considered to be more egalitarian like Norway. This is what scientists at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1) report, in collaboration with the Universities of Oslo (Norway), Lausanne and Neuchâtel (Switzerland), in a study published in Sex Roles. They also show that in some situations the power-masculinity association does not manifest in girls.

Little is known about how representations of power interact with gender in early childhood. Researchers at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1), in collaboration with the Universities of Oslo (Norway), Lausanne and Neuchâtel (Switzerland) wanted to know whether children aged 3 to 6 years old in France, Lebanon, and Norway attribute more power to masculine figures than feminine figures.

In a first experiment, they showed the children a picture with two non-gendered individuals. One of them adopted a dominant physical posture and the other a subordinate posture. First the children had to guess which of these two individuals was exerting power over the other. Next they had to assign a gender to each individual (Who is the girl? Who is the boy?). The results reveal that from 4 years old, a large majority of children consider the dominant individual to be a boy. The power-masculinity association was observed in both boys and girls, and just as much in Lebanon as in France and Norway. However it was not significant in 3-year old children.

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In a second experiment, this time in children aged 4 and 5 years old all in school in France, had to imagine themselves in the picture and imagine the other person as a boy or a girl. When the children had to consider their power relation with a person of the same gender as themselves, the girls and boys both largely identified with the dominant character. But when they had to consider their power relation with a person of the opposite gender, boys identified more often with the dominant character whereas girls did not significantly identify more with one or other of the characters.

Finally, in a third experiment, children aged 4 and 5 years old in Lebanon and France watched a series of exchanges between two puppets, one representing a girl and the other a boy, behind a board (1). In one case, the puppets were getting ready to play a game together and the child heard one impose their choices on the other. In the other case, one puppet had more money than the other to buy ice cream. In France and Lebanon, most of the boys thought that the puppet that imposed their choices or that had more money was the male puppet. However, the girls in both countries did not attribute the dominant position preferably to one or other gender.

These results show that children have early sensitivity to a gender hierarchy, though in some situations girls do not associate power and masculinity. The scientists now hope to find out what power forms they attribute to feminine figures and whether they legitimize the expression of gendered power.

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1 The puppets, which were shown to the children before being hidden behind the board, were manipulated by the same speaker and “spoke” with the same voice, working as in a cartoon. So, behind the board, it was not to possible to differentiate them by their voice.

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LIVING HISTORY

Supreme Court junks with finality petition for same-sex marriage

But in its earlier ruling on the matter, the SC said the Constitution does not restrict marriage on the basis of sex. It stated that the 1987 Constitution, from its “plain text,” “does not define, or restrict, marriage on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”

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The Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines has junked – with finality – the petition that sought to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.

In a two-page notice issued by the SC last December 10, 2019 (but only made available on January 6, 2020), the SC denied “with finality the said motion for reconsideration as no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision.”

In October 2015, Atty. Jesus Nicardo Falcis III filed the petition that sought to strike down the prohibitions against same-sex marriage under the Family Code. But the SC dismissed Falcis’ petition “on account of his lack of standing, violating the principle of hierarchy of courts, and failing to raise an actual, justiciable controversy,” SC’s spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said in a news conference on September 3, 2019.

But in its earlier ruling on the matter, the SC said the Constitution does not restrict marriage on the basis of sex. It stated that the 1987 Constitution, from its “plain text,” “does not define, or restrict, marriage on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”

The High Court, nonetheless, had to deny the petition based on Falcis’ lack of standing, violation of the principle of hierarchy of courts, and failure to raise an actual, justiciable controversy.

This time around, the SC stated that “no further pleadings or motions will be entertained,” said SC Clerk of Court Edgar Aricheta.

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For the SC, through Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who penned the decision, “same-sex couples may morally claim that they have a right against discrimination for their choice of relationships and that official recognition of their partnerships may, for now, be a matter that should be addressed to Congress.”

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