#WeAreFamilyToo: LGBT groups push for marriage equality outside SC
MANILA, Philippines – "We are family too."
This was the common rallying cry of various lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups during the protest for marriage equality on Tuesday, June 19 which coincided with the historical oral arguments on same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court.
“Within the LGBT community, there are pairs that belong to the same sex. We recognize them as families too. That's why 'we are family’,” Regie Pasion, president of the LGBT Bahaghari United Secularists Philippines (lgbtBUS) said in Filipino. (READ: ‘Mistakes’ of young lawyer overshadow historic marriage equality hearing)
The petition filed in 2015 by lawyer Jesus Falcis III seeks to legalize same-sex marriage, arguing that Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code are unconstitutional. The provisions tag marriage as the foundation of a family, yet limit marriage to the union of man and woman only. (READ: SC's De Castro: Same-sex marriage will complicate gender specific laws)
Pasion admitted that he had little understanding of the legal side of the battle and left that to Falcis. However, he said that marriage should be a basic human right. He cited, for example, the civil rights of families recognized by law. “Dapat bigyan ako ng karapatan ng estado na maging malaya kung kanino ko iiwan ang aking ipapamana." (The state should give me the right to choose whomever I want to leave inheritance.)
Conjugal rights are among the elements that differentiate marriage from a holy union rite. The latter is available to members of the LGBT community through queer churches such as the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), and petitioner-intervenor Rev. Cresencio Agbayani, Jr.’s LGBTS Christian Church.
Pastor Joseph San Jose of MCC said that the holy union rite is just a religiously symbolic proof of togetherness but is not legally-binding in the Philippines. However, such unions are recognized as legal in other countries such as Canada.
Ironically, Pastor San Jose and his same-sex partner for 3 years have not yet taken the rite due to the lack of protection for same sex couples’ joint properties.
“The constitution is very clear[ly] in opposition of the family code,” the 33 year-old pastor said in an interview with Rappler. “We want to have our own house. We’re just waiting for the capacity to have our own house and then we will have our union.”
This was the same issue in the case of Vince Madolid, who lost his same-sex partner of 17 years to cancer last year.
He told Rappler, “I have experienced yung wala akong hawak doon sa partner ko with regards sa property." (I didn’t have conjugal rights over our properties)
“We had a car. Since the car was under his name, it was impossible for me to acquire it so I decided to return it to his legally-recognized family," Madolid said in mix Filpino and English.
Among the groups that were present during the rally were UP Babaylan, Lagablab LGBT Pilipinas. MCC, lgbtBUS, Philippine Atheism, Agnosticism and Secularism Society, Inc. (PATAS), Metro Manila Pride (MM Pride), and Akbayan.
Pasion said they use social media to make the protests like that possible. They use digital tools such as hashtags #WeAreFamilyToo and #RiseUpTogether to spark online discourse and encourage participation in rallies and other activities to commemorate pride month.
Pasion lamented the high tolerance yet low acceptance of the LGBT in the country.
“Halos walang panahon ang Pilipino (including the LGBT) na ipaglaban pa ang ganito kasi komportable na sila," he said. (Filipinos barely have the time to fight for advocacies like this because they are comfortable already.)
But he is hopeful. Despite these challenges, he believes it is the most opportune time to fight for marriage equality. (READ: Is timing right for same-sex marriage petition? Leonen warns of risks)
“Hindi naman maiintindihan pa talaga ng Pilipino ang isyu na ito pero naniniwala kami na ito na ang panahon para ipaglaban namin ito," he said. (Filipinos won’t understand this issue yet but we believe that it is time for us to fight for this.)
This was echoed by Pastor San Jose who believed that Filipinos have the capacity to think progressively.
“The LGBT community is a bit more courageous now as compared some decades ago,” he said. “There’s reason for hope."
The oral arguments will resume on June 26 at 2 pm.– Rappler.com
Sheila Advincula is a Rappler intern. She is currently taking up AB Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University