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Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s support for marriage equality welcomed

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s support for the passage of a same-sex or marriage equality law allowing LGBTI people to marry was welcomed by EnGendeRights. According to Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, executive director of the human rights organization: “The right to marry is a basic human right that everyone should enjoy – heterosexuals and LGBTI people alike. It is guaranteed by our constitutional rights to equality, equal protection of the law, privacy, religion and belief.”

EnGendeRights welcomed Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s support for the passage of a same-sex or marriage equality law allowing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to marry.

According to Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, executive director of EnGendeRights, a human rights  organization that fights against discrimination of women and LGBTI people, “Philippine law should uphold the basic human rights of everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE). LGBTI people enjoy the same rights to equality and non-discrimination as all Filipino citizens, thus, our laws should afford LGBTI people the same rights as heterosexuals. The right to marry is a basic human right that everyone should enjoy – heterosexuals and LGBTI people alike. It is guaranteed by our constitutional rights to equality, equal protection of the law, privacy, religion and belief.”

Presently, LGBTI couples are denied the same benefits enjoyed by heterosexuals such as the right to jointly adopt children, own conjugal properties, intestate succession, immigration, avail of tax exemption, and avail of benefits related to insurance, social security, medical, hospitalization, next-of-kin, burial, among others.   These benefits have long been enjoyed by married heterosexual couples simply because they are heterosexuals.

“Not allowing LGBTI couples these basic rights is outright discrimination against LGBTI persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” added Padilla.

There are also already many LGBTI couples who have married abroad or who belong to various religions whose unions were celebrated by their own churches; these couples now want to be validly married in the Philippines by their non-Catholic churches.  There are also LGBTI couples who do not belong to any church but would want to be married civilly.

“Limiting the right to marry to heterosexuals discriminates against LGBTI people and denies people of different faiths and beliefs their right to marry,” Padilla said. “The constitutional right to freedom of religion also guarantees non-establishment of religion. Disallowing LGBTI people the right to marry under Philippine law because it is against the teachings of a certain church violates the non-establishment clause.  True to the constitutional guarantee of the non-establishment clause and secular standards are examples of laws of predominantly Catholic countries allowing equality in marriage.”

Incidentally, Spain, from which the Philippines inherited the Catholic religion, is the third country that recognized marriage equality of LGBTI people in 2005, while others include Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, and Portugal.

“LGBTI people experience widespread discrimination, harassment, and violence in their own families, schools, workplaces, and communities.  Some were physically abused, raped, tortured, and murdered. These violations are exacerbated by absence of laws and policies, i.e., the absence of comprehensive national laws on anti-discrimination, gender identity recognition, hate crimes, and marriage equality,” Padilla continued. “As long as marriage equality is not recognized, people will always justify discrimination against LGBTI people.  There will be mothers who beat their daughters and lock them up in a room for weeks simply because their daughters are lesbians. There will be fathers who beat up their children because their children are gay or trans. There will be teachers who force students to wear curtains as skirts to stop them from expressing their male gender identity.”

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Padilla added that the “persistent human rights violations of LGBTI people are fueled by conservative religious beliefs that lead to the continued failure of the government to fully comply with its obligations under international law to address the rights of LGBTI people. The absence of a marriage equality law makes all Filipinos complicit to the hate crimes committed against LGBTI people, all the bashing and bullying that LGBTI people suffer, and all the discrimination that LGBTI people suffer on a daily basis.  Recognizing the right to equality of marriage of LGBTs is an important step towards eliminating discrimination against LGBTI people.  Other laws that should also be enacted to protect the rights of LGBTI people are the anti-discrimination law based on SOGIE and gender recognition law.  LGBTI people should also be afforded access to justice and equal protection of the law, inter alia, upholding a lesbian mother’s right to custody of her child.”

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