Legalizing same sex unions
MARRIAGE WITHOUT RECOGNITION
It’s pretty much the same with the rest, I think,” was how Amanda Karina Escano described her kind of family.
Amanda Karina or Kina to her closest friends, has been living with a female partner for seven years now and raising the latter’s 10-year-old daughter.
A lesbian, Kina, and her partner Roville Garcia work as virtual assistants in Cebu City.
After jointly raising Roville’s daughter, Armonie, for five years now, Kina hoped she could formalize her standing as a parent.
“Personally, as a lesbian, standing as a parent to my girlfriend’s biological daughter, I don’t hear anyone lambasting me for it,” said Kina.
“I am not adopting Armonie yet. If only we can marry, it could have been an ideal situation. Adopting Armi, and changing her last name to mine wouldn’t make sense for now,” she added.
Kina said that if same-sex unions were to be legalized in the country, she would consider entering into marriage with Roville to be entitled to all the legal benefits and rights of a married couple.
But proposed measures to allow same-sex unions have yet to be approved by the Supreme Court (SC) and in Congress.
In 2015, lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III filed a petition before the SC seeking to legalize same-sex unions in the Philippines.
As ground for his petition, Falcis cited the denial of the Quezon City Civil Registrar’s Office to issue marriage licenses for gay couple Crescencio “Ceejay” Agbayani, founding pastor of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight (LGBTS) Christian Church Inc., and his partner Marlon Felipe, and also for lesbian Maria Arlyn “Sugar” Ibañez and a female partner.
Agbayani, Felipe, and Ibañez are now listed as petitioner-intervenors in Falcis’ SC petition.
Under Executive Order No. 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines, marriage is defined as ‘a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life.’
The Code further provides that no marriage shall be valid, unless the contracting parties have the legal capacity to enter into marriage, with parties ‘who must be a male and a female.’
“Textually, the Constitution does not limit it (marriage) to man and woman,” Falcis pointed out before the SC.
“The equal protection clause requires that LGBT couples be included in the definition of marriage if the purpose is conjugal and family life — which is not necessarily procreation even for straight couples, some of who are senior citizens and sterile,” Falcis explained in an interview with CDN.
The case Falcis vs. Civil Registrar-General was scheduled for hearings before the High Court last June 19 and 26 to hear the oral arguments of several parties including the Solicitor General on constitutional issues such as: The right to marry, violations of religious freedom, due process and the equal protection clause, as well as the State’s exercise of police power in limiting civil marriages to heterosexual couples.
The arguments also tackled the effects of legalizing same-sex marriage and the declaration of lesbianism and homosexuality as grounds for annulment and legal separation under the Family Code as unconstitutional.
Over in Congress, the Civil Partnership Bill which sought to allow consenting adults of the same or opposite sex to form civil partnerships also remained pending.
The bill, proposed by then House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez along with nine other representatives including Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu’s 3rd district, aimed to provide same-sex couples under a civil partnership all the benefits and protection enjoyed by heterosexual couples such as tax, insurance and labor-related privileges.
The bill also wanted to apply all laws pertaining to marital relations, rights to a child, and the rules on inheritance to civil partnerships.
Under the bill, couples with a civil partnership would have limited adoption privileges.
They will be allowed to adopt only if there were no married couples willing to take the child in or if the child belonged to one of the partners.
As to properties acquired by civil partnership couples while living together, laws on co-ownership would generally apply, according to the bill.
While Falcis finds the Civil Partnership Bill as a satisfactory measure, he said that the fight for full equality will not stop.
Fundamental rights such as the right to marry, said Falcis, do not wait for the right time.
“Civil union and same-sex marriage is essentially the same. The only difference is for a lot of religious people, they believe marriage is a religious and historical term for a man and a woman. So politicians may advocate using a different term to avoid the religious connotation,” said Falcis.
For his part Carlos Conde, Philippine researcher for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said, in an interview, that the country was now on the right track.
“It is just a matter of pushing the LGBTQ (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning) community and the leaders of human rights movements to do the right thing and not the popular thing,” said Conde.
If given a choice, Kina said that she would prefer to marry her partner instead of getting into a civil partnership arrangement.
“It is somewhat sad that at this point in time, we are still fighting for the right to love, that without our perseverance and undying faith our progress may be put to an abrupt stop,” she told Cebu Daily News.
For Michael Cano, who married his partner Jay in a symbolic wedding ceremony last June, the Civil Partnership Bill, if enacted, would be a good start.
Refusing to call it a compromise, Michael acknowledged that society, in general, was still not ready to accept same-sex marriage in the country.
“I believe in progress through making babysteps. Other countries that legalized same-sex marriage went through the same thing. They had civil partnership bills passed first and legalized marriage after,” Michael said.
“We are realistic. Michael and I share the same sentiments. We believe that there is a perfect time for everything,” added his partner, Jay Lugo.
Their close friend Arcy Yuson, who solemnized the couple’s symbolic union, however, believed that any time was ripe to approve laws on marriage equality.
Yuson pointed out that same-sex couples do not ask for special rights but only want the same rights given to heterosexual couples.
Yuson, who has been in a relationship with another man for more than seven years now, is open to marriage with his partner if the measures are approved.
“With democratic countries in the West legalizing same-sex marriages, I believe that we can ride the tide and positively affect the attitudes of our society to make it happen,” Yuson said.
“Progress is measured like a spectrum, the ultimate goal is full recognition; but if civil union is what we will achieve for now, we will take it and celebrate that milestone. But then again it won’t stop us from fighting for full recognition,” added Yuson. (To be continued)
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