Same-sex couples get 'married' in Philippines

Protestant pastors perform symbolic 'weddings' to highlight discrimination in law that only allows women and men to marry
Same-sex couples get 'married' in Philippines

An anti-LGBT Christian group hold a protest on the sidelines of this year's Gay Pride March in the Manila suburb of Marikina on June 30. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Dozens of same-sex Filipino couples have taken "marriage vows" before Protestant pastors in the past week despite opposition by government officials and Catholic Church leaders.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte himself said that although he is for the passage of a law that will allow same-sex union, he is against same-sex marriage.

The president's spokesman, Harry Roque Jr., said Duterte wanted to fix the "different aspects of a union between those of the same sex."

A law that would allow civil union would grant legal status to same-sex couples and give them the same rights as other couples when it comes to inheritance and medical decisions for their spouse.

On June 28, same-sex couple Alice Crisostomo and Honey Jean Albino "wed" before a Protestant pastor in the southern region of Caraga despite the absence of a law that recognizes the union.

The local civil registrar of Agusan del Sur province, however, refused to register the wedding.

Edgar Jover told the union cannot be registered because it would not be legal under Philippine law.

"There is nothing in the law that says a marriage between a girl and a girl or a male and a male is allowed," said Jover.

Other couples in the central Philippine province of Leyte also took marriage vows in the last few days.

"The issue of same-sex marriage is not about religion. It is about equal protection of the law," said Crescencio Agbayani Jr., a Protestant pastor who conducted the "weddings."

Agbayani said he is confident that the country's legislators and the Supreme Court will allow same sex unions soon.

In 2015, lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III petitioned the Philippine Supreme Court to declare as "unconstitutional" provisions in the Family Code of the Philippines that "define and limit marriage only between man and woman."

Falcis also wanted to nullify a provision that cites lesbianism or homosexuality as grounds for annulment and legal separation.

 A bill that recognizes "civil union" of couples regardless of sexual orientation is currently pending in the Lower House of Congress.

Catholic Church leaders, however, expressed optimism that same-sex marriage will never become legal in the Philippines.

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Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon pointed to a recent survey done by pollster Social Weather Stations noting that 61 percent of Filipinos are against legalizing same-sex marriage.

"Filipino culture abhors the marriage of two men or of two women. It is unthinkable in our way of life, which is our culture," said the prelate.

He said same-sex marriage is a "great infraction" of the country's laws.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, meanwhile, said same-sex unions will "not make a family because a family is a husband, wife and children."

President Duterte's position on same-sex unions has evolved since his election in 2016 when he said he is "open" to legalizing same-sex marriage.

In March 2017, he rejected the idea, saying the Civil Code of the Philippines only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman, noting that Filipinos are predominantly Catholic.

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