Updated: October 07, 2016 04:32 AM GMT
Lesbian couple Ginny Hechanova, a 37-year old architect, and Cher Burdeos, a 32-year old migrant worker, get married in February. The union was officiated by Reverend Ceejay Agbayani, pastor of the LGBT Christian Church, an independent ecumenical church that claims to have more than 100 members in Metro Manila. Same-sex unions are illegal in the Philippines and are frowned upon by the Catholic Church. (Photo by Patricia Nabong)
Catholic bishops have voiced concern over proposed legalization to allow same-sex marriage in the Philippines.
"It's against our culture," said Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa. "It doesn't mean that just because other countries have it we also have to follow," he added.
On Oct. 3, a leading Filipino legislator announced that he will be filing a bill in Congress supporting same-sex marriage "to show respect and uphold the dignity" of gay Filipinos.
"If you look at the constitution, there is a provision guaranteeing happiness for Filipinos. Why would we deprive [gay people] of that?" said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
The Philippine Constitution provides that the "state values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights."
Alvarez, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, said that while the Catholic Church is free to oppose his proposal, the measure only covers civil union and provision on conjugal ownership.
"My proposal is about civil union. We do not meddle with the affairs of the church. There's no problem if they don't want it," said the legislator.
"The beauty of democracy is we can argue and disagree, but at the end of the day, it is the majority that prevails," Alvarez added.
He said defending the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is part of his advocacy.
Against human nature
Catholic Church leaders, however, maintained that same-sex marriage is not only against divine law, but also against human and natural law.
"Marriage as willed by God is between a man and a woman," said Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao.
The prelate said he respects the opinion of Alvarez but as a "teacher of the church" Bishop Ongtioco said he will uphold its teachings.
"The purpose of marriage is to have a family, kids, but if the couple is of the same sex then one who will suffer the most in this situation is their child because it's not normal," said Bishop Arguelles.
"In the eyes of God, a married couple is a man and a woman," Arguelles said.
Bishop Jose Oliveros said the church's stand against same-sex marriage "is not a matter of rights but rather a matter of what is contrary to the nature of marriage."
Church leaders last month announced that it will set up ministries in dioceses to help people understand the thinking of the church about same-sex attraction.
Bishop Gilbert Garcera of Daet, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said the objective of the ministry is to explain to Catholics the church's stand on marriage.
Citing Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amores Laetitia, Bishop Garcera said people with same sex attraction deserve "the church's help and guidance."
He said it is important for dioceses to have a ministry that will respond to their needs.