Make SOGIE equality bill a priority, over 200 groups urge Marcos

Michelle Abad

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Make SOGIE equality bill a priority, over 200 groups urge Marcos

EQUALITY ALLIANCE. Multi-sectoral groups unite in The Equality Alliance to urge President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to certify the SOGIE equality bill as urgent, in a press conference on June 14, 2024.


Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman says there is a 'change in the landscape' in Congress, with more lawmakers becoming open to supporting the SOGIE equality bill

MANILA, Philippines – More than 200 organizations across the private sector, including women and youth groups, religious groups, and groups fighting for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer+ (LGBTQ+) community, urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to certify the SOGIE equality bill as urgent.

The national and community-based organizations banded together in what they call The Equality Alliance to send an open letter to the President requesting the prioritization of the bill.

The measure seeks to penalize discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression or SOGIE. It has been languishing in Congress for over two decades.

If passed, the bill would ensure everyone’s protection from SOGIE-based discrimination and harassment in schools, workplaces, and public spaces.

“The [proposed SOGIE] Equality Law will strengthen families and place children in situations of love and safety, no matter their SOGIE. The law will acknowledge and boost the economic contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals,” the advocates said in their letter, which was read aloud in a press briefing on Friday, June 14.

The advocates told the President, “Make equality your legacy – a ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ (New Philippines) built on mutual respect, love, and acceptance.”

While not having certified the SOGIE bill as urgent, so far, Marcos has been known to support gender-inclusive policies. In December 2023, he issued Executive Order No. 51 creating a special body for the LGBTQ+ sector that gave the community an avenue to participate in policy formation.

He also ratified an International Labour Organization convention that seeks to end violence and harassment in the workplace, which labor groups have said would help fight discrimination against workers of various SOGIE.

Resisting forces

Religious and conservative groups have historically been known to block the SOGIE bill’s passage. Some misconceptions that have been brought up during hearings are how the bill would supposedly legalize same-sex marriage, or allow Filipinos to easily change their gender markers on official documents. Critics also claim the bill would step on religious freedom or parental authority.

Ito ay simpleng anti-discrimination bill na naglalayong proteksiyonan ang lahat ng Pilipino, LGBT man o hindi, laban sa diskriminasyon…sa larangan po ng trabaho, ng pag-aaral, sa pagtanggap po ng mga serbisyo mula sa pamahalaan, at sa paggamit at pagpasok sa ibang pampublikong establisimyento at accommodations. ‘Yun lang po ‘yun. Napakasimple,” said Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, the Philippines’ first transgender congresswoman.

(This is a simple anti-discrimination bill that seeks to protect all Filipinos, LGBT or not, against discrimination…in any field of work, education, receiving government services, and being allowed inside public establishments and accommodations. That’s all it is. It’s so simple.)

Roman said she saw a “change in the landscape” in Congress, with less political pressure to oppose the SOGIE bill.

“We are not afraid anymore to vote for what we think would benefit the Filipino nation,” she said.

Bahaghari chairperson Reyna Valmores said politicians should reconsider where the political damage really lies – in backlash from the religious sector, or the general public.

“The real political damage now is for lawmakers to face the public and they say, ‘We are against equality,'” said Valmores in a mix of English and Filipino.

Valmores also highlighted the potential economic benefits for the country if the LGBTQ+ sector in schools and the workforce were able to thrive without fear of discrimination.

“Hindi po ba napakaganda ang future na ang mga kagaya kong mga bata o mga kabataan puwedeng pumasok sa school knowing that it is legitimately a second home, na hindi tayo madi-discriminate at ma-unlock natin ang ating full potential bilang mga pag-asa ng bayan?” she said.

“Hindi po ba napakagandang future na ang mga ka-edad ko rin na mga manggagawa, first time papasok sa workforce, hindi matatakot mangahas, maghanap ng trabaho, knowing na their identity is never going to be a hindrance towards being a contributor to the Philippine economy?” she added.

(Wouldn’t it be a beautiful future if young people like me could go to school knowing that it is legitimately a second home, where we aren’t discriminated against and we’re able to unlock our full potential as the hope of the country? Wouldn’t it be a beautiful future if people my age going into the workforce for the first time wouldn’t be afraid to dare, to look for jobs, knowing their identity is never going to be a hindrance towards being a contributor to the Philippine economy?)

The 19th Congress is currently adjourned, and will return to session in July when Marcos delivers his State of the Nation Address. In the SONA, the President will highlight his administration’s priority measures. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.