MANILA, Philippines – Thousands joined Manila's Gay Pride march Saturday, June 29, wielding rainbow flags and umbrellas in a push for equality, just weeks after the nation's leader sparked outrage by declaring he'd been "cured" of homosexuality years ago.
While the Philippines has a reputation of being accepting of gay and transgender people, same-sex marriage is outlawed and legal protections are nearly non-existent.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly used gay slurs against critics, and told a crowd last month that in his younger days he "cured" himself of homosexuality with the help of "beautiful women."
"He's absolutely wrong on that one. That's not how it works!" said marcher Noel Bordador, 55, an episcopal priest.
But Bordador told Agence France-Presse that the gay community faced deeper issues than worrying about Duterte's outrageous comments.
"Can I get married here? Do I have rights?" he asked. "Legal protections, that is what we are fighting for." (READ: Beyond Pride march, advocates urge LGBTQ+ community to #ResistTogether)
Divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage are all illegal in the deeply Catholic nation, where a gay rights bill has made very little progress in the legislature after decades of pushing.
Gay Pride marchers numbered some 30,000, organizers said, as the rally crept through heavy rain with meters-long rainbow banners. (READ: Metro Manila Pride 2019 crowd of 52,000, twice bigger than previous record)
"It is a human rights movement – and as such, is a call for active solidarity with other marginalized communities," march organizer Nicky Castillo said.