Justice Carpio: Same-sex civil union is constitutional

Lian Buan

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Justice Carpio: Same-sex civil union is constitutional
Petitioner Jesus Falcis III says civil union can be a middleground, 'but it doesn’t mean we will stop fighting for marriage equality'

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said on Tuesday, June 26, that same-sex civil union is constitutional.

Carpio said this during his interpellation of Solicitor General Calida as they tackled the petition seeking to legalize same-sex marriage.

Carpio said same-sex civil union is based on the constitutional right to freedom of association. Freedom to associate with others is also cited in the same-sex civil union bill sponsored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez pending at the lower chamber.

It is grounded on the Bill of Rights, which protects “the right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law.”

By logic, because people are free to associate with one another, any two people can enter into a contract that would guarantee them the civil rights enjoyed by a married couple. (READ: Supreme Court tackles: Are same-sex couples family too?)

“Can two people of the same sex agree that their property relations will be governed by absolute community of property, they can also agree that when I die you will inherit [what I leave], they can agree that when I die, you will decide where I will be buried?” Carpio asked Calida.

It was rhetorical because Carpio immediately answered his own question: “Of course, because even without a law, that will be constitutional.”

“I respect your position so I tend to agree with you,” Calida said.

Middle ground?

This seems to be a popular compromise among groups within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI). It would grant them the same civil rights, but it would reduce the opposition of conservatives who don’t want to call it a marriage.

Even Carpio thinks that is the case, as he told Calida: “We don’t call it a marriage, we call it a union.”

“As long as the rose does not smell like a rose, then there’s no problem,” Calida said, which means to say that as long as they remain distinct “then there’s no problem.” (READ: Same-sex marriage: Flawed petition or unready Court?)

“Two people of the same sex can have an agreement regarding property, successional rights, and all other rights, and that’s not unconstitutional, and if that’s embodied in a law, that’s even stronger, but it does not go against your position that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Carpio said.

Petitioner Jesus Falcis III said their legal teams are studying their options of considering civil union as a middle ground.

“We are very happy that there are many people in the movement who support marriage equality per se, they do not want to settle for less, but of course, as advocates, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of civil unions only, we’re also fine with that, but it doesn’t mean we will stop fighting for equality,” Falcis said. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.