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Filipino school students press for gay rights bill

Legislation aimed at ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender set to go before Senate

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: March 16, 2018 06:00 AM GMT

Updated: March 16, 2018 06:03 AM GMT

Filipino school students press for gay rights bill

Student leaders in the Philippines declare their support for the anti-discrimination bill now pending in the Senate during a media briefing in Manila on March 14. (Photo supplied)

Students from Catholic schools in the Philippines will march with LGBT groups this week to press for the passage of a bill designed to end discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality.

They will attend nationwide rallies with gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in major cities across the country on March 17 to show support for the proposed law in the Senate.

"We can no longer stay silent on the issue of discrimination," said Mikee De Vega, president of the student council at Manila's De La Salle University.

"As student leaders from Catholic schools, love and acceptance is at the core of the teachings of our schools," De Vega said during a media briefing in Manila.

"We are here to make our voices count," he said, adding that "discrimination is real and denying it risks the lives" of the LGBT community "who have to face hate every day."

An online unity statement in support of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Equality bill or anti-discrimination bill has already been signed by more than 100 organizations.

Last week, conservative Christian groups held a protest rally outside the Senate building in Manila to protest the proposed measure.

The Coalition of Christians for Righteousness, Justice and Truth said the introduction of the bill violates the constitution.

In a statement, the group said homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible and existing laws are sufficient to protect all Filipinos, including members of the LGBT community, from discrimination.

"Same-sex marriage is an abomination to God ... This will invite kinds of curses that we cannot contain in our generation," said Eddie Villanueva, founder of the Jesus is Lord movement.

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The Catholic bishops' conference issued a statement supporting a proposed anti-discrimination law back in 2015.

The bishops, however, made it clear that they do not encourage choosing one's gender and performing homosexual acts, among other things.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, former president of the bishops' conference, maintained that gender and sexuality "must be counted as God's gift."

The prelate said an anti-discrimination law is a "gesture of charity" if discrimination means "that certain individuals, because of sexual orientation or gender identity, are systematically denied fundamental human rights."

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bill in 2017 but it faces a much tougher passage in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, known for opposing so called "anti-life" measures like divorce and the restoration of capital punishment, said the bill is "practically dead."

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