Philippine court junks bid to legalize same-sex marriage

Catholic bishops call move to bypass lawmakers via the Supreme Court an 'immoral plea'
Philippine court junks bid to legalize same-sex marriage

A gay couple joins the annual gay pride march in Manila in June. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

The Supreme Court in the Philippines has dismissed what it described was a "premature" petition seeking to legalize same-sex marriage.

Lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III had earlier asked the court to nullify portions of the country's Family Code, which defines marriage as "a union between a man and a woman."

He also sought to nullify portions of the same law that include lesbianism or homosexuality as grounds for annulment and legal separation.

The petition violated the principle of court hierarchy, and that the petitioner should have first filed it in a lower court, the judges ruled.

While recognizing that same-sex couples have a right against discrimination, the Supreme Court said "premature petitions ... may only do more harm than good."

The court said it could not rule on the petition because the lawyer who filed it did not cite any actual case of controversy, nor was he representing anyone denied a legally recognized marriage with someone of the same sex.

The Supreme Court said only Congress can amend the Family Code to accommodate same-sex marriage, a highly controversial issue in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

Several Catholic bishops applauded the court's decision on Sept. 3.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon described the petition as an "immoral plea to legalize same sex marriage in our country."

"Cheers to the Supreme Court that defends the true nature of marriage as defined by our present constitution," added the prelate.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said the court decision was "legal, right, and moral," saying the judges only decided and affirmed the "just, natural, and ethical nature of marriage."

He said dismissal of same-sex marriage "strengthens the sanctity and stability of marriage."

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo called the court decision a "good development."

"The fight against same-sex marriage will be in the legislature. I hope lawmakers will give weight to strengthening families rather than weakening them," said Bishop Pabillo.

The country's Catholic bishops have always been open in their opposition to proposals to pass a law allowing same-sex marriage.

"Marriage is a permanent union of a man and woman, in the complementarity of the sexes," they said in a bishops' conference statement in 2015.

In 2017, then newly elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also voiced opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

He said 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 the Philippines' Civil Code states that a man or a woman can only marry someone from the opposite sex.

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