President Duterte Announces Support For Same-Sex Marriage
On Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines announced his support for same-sex marriage in a LGBT rights conference at in his hometown, Davao City. It was a surprising turn, given he has opposed it for years.
The president had said that marriage in the Philippines is supposed to be between a man and a woman. In the past, criticizing the West over their condemnation of his crackdown on drugs, he attacked them on the basis of their legalization of same-sex marriage.
In the conference, he asked the LGBT community to nominate a representative. According to the president, the representative would then work in the government to legalize gay marriage.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines has been supporting him on the matter. The Church is a crucial political ally to the country’s leadership, given that eighty percent of the citizens are Catholic.
However, the president’s recent shift in gay marriage may add new tensions between him and the Church. Already, the clerics have voiced deep concern over the president’s deadly campaign on drugs. In a bell-ringing protest in a archdiocese north of Manila, Archbishop Socrates Villegas commented on the brutal handling of civilians by authorities saying, “the country is [in] chaos.”
The president is also at odds with Catholic bishops over advocating for artificial birth control and promoting death penalty.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the official organization of the episcopacy of the Philippine Catholic Church, has resisted laws and policies that would protect LGBT rights.
Meanwhile, the Congress is currently in the process of passing an anti-discriminations law. On Sept 20th, the House in National Congress has unanimously voted and passed the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) equality bill. The law would protect individuals from discrimination, including being denied public services, and being refused hiring. Violators will be fined between $1993 to $9965 in US dollars.
Following the House, the Senate is expected to soon pass a similar version of the bill.
Until recently, international NGOs have reported individuals’ rights in the Philippines being violated, due to lack of legal protection for LGBTQ people. According to the Human Rights Watch, “students’ rights to education [were] curtailed,” from experiencing bullying and discrimination, including physical and sexual assault. The Anti-Bullying Law passed in 2013 prohibits bullying based on sexual identity. However, rigid gender norms are imposed by schools and these include uniforms, restrooms, and class activities, based on gender.
In 2015, Vietnam banned regulations that prevented same-sex marriage. In May, constitutional court of Taiwan ruled current laws on marriage to be unconstitutional.
However, countries in Asia are yet to legalize same-sex marriage.