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Duterte sides with Catholic Church on same-sex marriage

Rights group accuses Philippine president of breaking election promise to legalize unions

Duterte sides with Catholic Church on same-sex marriage

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he is against same-sex marriage during a meeting with the Filipino community in Myanmar on March. (Photo by Rene Lumawag)

 

Joe Torres, Manila
Philippines

March 21, 2017

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has voiced opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage, in a rare display of agreement with the Catholic Church.

The culture of other countries where "there's no gender" and one "can be he or she" is not applicable in the Philippines, he said.

"That [same-sex marriage] won’t work for us. We're Catholics," he said in a speech before the Filipino community in Myanmar on March 19.

He said Philippines' Civil Code states that a man or a woman can only marry the opposite sex. "That's the law in the Philippines," said the president.

"I have two brothers-in-law who are gay. I have cousins who are gay, I have nothing against them, but you have to stick to where God placed you," said Duterte.

Church leaders in the Philippines welcomed the president's statement, saying that they are grateful for his respecting the "sanctity of marriage."

"We are grateful to our president and we are appreciative," said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga.

"This shows he still adheres to our Catholic teachings, that is, stable marriage and marriage of a man and a woman, is strong pillar of stable and secured society," said the prelate.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon expressed surprise.

"It was a very pleasant surprise for me. Very nice of Duterte. It is a [plus] point for our president," he said.

Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches, who has been repeatedly linked by the president to abuse allegations, welcomed the comments.

"I’m happy with the president's comments. Let us not follow the bad example of other countries in this matter," said Bishop Bacani.

Human Rights Watch, however, criticized the president for reneging on his election promise to press for the passage of a law that will legalize same-sex marriage.

During the 2016 election campaign, President Duterte said he was open to the idea.

"If the draft [same-sex marriage legislation] reaches me in whatever capacity, I'll consider it," he said.

In October, Pantaleon Alvarez, Speaker of the Lower House and a close ally of the president, announced that he would press for the passage of a law that will allow same-sex marriage.

The House leader, however, said it is not among President Duterte's priority measures. 

"Duterte's reversal is not just about campaign promises — it jeopardizes the fundamental rights of LGBT partners and families," read a statement from Human Rights Watch. 

The group said that, "from a human rights perspective, broadening civil marriage to couples of the same sex demonstrates respect for the fundamental rights of equality and nondiscrimination."

The United States, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Ireland, have passed legislation ensuring marriage equality. 

In Asia, legislators in Taiwan are planning to draft a law that would legalize same-sex marriage. 

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