The Philippine Supreme Court heard a long-awaited argument on Tuesday that could open the door to same-sex marriage in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.
The case, which was filed by a gay lawyer named Jesus Falcis in 2015, urges the court to declare the marriage restriction in the country’s Family Code – which limits marriage to one man and one woman – unconstitutional. It also asks the court to recognize marriage equality in the Philippines. Falcis argues that the marriage restrictions violate his rights to due process, equal protection, and forming a family under the Philippine Constitution.
If the Supreme Court rules that the provisions of the Family Code are unconstitutional and permits same-sex marriage, or the national legislature enacts a law allowing same-sex marriage, the Philippines will join Taiwan at the forefront of Asian countries with marriage equality.
Beyond the Supreme Court hearing, the recognition of same-sex partnerships has gained considerable steam in the Philippines.
In the House of Representatives, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed a bill in October 2017 that would create civil partnerships. The bill, HB 6595, would grant same-sex couples “[a]ll benefits and protections as are granted to spouses in a marriage,” including the ability to jointly adopt, inherit property, obtain tax benefits, and share insurance, health, and pension benefits. The bill was debated by a House panel in January 2018, but has not been voted on.
President Rodrigo Duterte has sent conflicting messages about his views on same-sex marriage, indicating support for it on the campaign trail, seemingly reversing his position in March 2017, and then endorsing the idea again in December 2017.
As the Supreme Court deliberates over the same-sex marriage case, lawmakers have an opportunity to proactively protect the rights of LGBT Filipinos. In 2017, the House of Representatives made history by approving a nondiscrimination law that, if passed by the Senate, would protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, education, health care, housing, public services, and other areas.
It should now show similar leadership in recognizing and advancing the rights of same-sex couples.