Philippine lawyer finds unlikely ally in Duterte in fight to legalise gay marriage
Philippines Philippine lawyer finds unlikely ally in Duterte in fight to legalise gay marriage
Jesus Falcis has taken his battle to the supreme court, backed by a president who regularly clashes with the Catholic church
In the Philippines, where Catholicism is dominant and divorce is still illegal, a young atheist, openly gay lawyer is leading a historic fight for sam e-sex marriage.
Jesus Falcis, 31, will face the supreme court on Tuesday to argue that a law limiting marriage to a man and a woman violates the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which he said doesnât make gender specifications on who can be married.
âI took up law to change the law. As a gay person, as a member of the minority I want to challenge laws that discriminate against LGBT people and advocate for laws that would help us,â said Falcis.
Falcis has found an unlikely ally in his fight in the Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. Falcis has been a vocal critic of Duterteâs bloody anti-drug campaign and the ousting of supreme court chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. But on this issue, he and Duterte agree.
âI support same-sex marriage,â Duterte said in a speech at an LGBT event in his hometown Davao City last December. âThe problem is weâll have to change the law. But we can change the law.â
It is thought Duterteâs support for gay marriage is in part inspired by his antagonistic relationship with the church. He habitually attacks the bishops in his speeches and likes to distributes a book exposing sexual abuse and corruption in the church.
Falcis filed his petition in 2015 arguing for same sex couples to be granted legal rights including visitation and custody rights, property and rights of inheritance.Duterte Harry's drugs war: how one fa mily was destroyed Read more
It is difficult to predict which way the supreme court will rule on the petition, but attention for the cause is a big win for the LGBT community, said University of the Philippines constitutional law professor Antonio La ViÃ±a.
La ViÃ±a said the supreme court could have easily dismissed the petition procedurally because is no urgency in the situation of Falcis, who doesnât have a partner he wants to marry.
âThe court is intrigued by the questions being raised in this case. They want to listen,â said La ViÃ±a. âI actually thought they would have dismissed the petition on procedural grounds. It means they are open to the substance of the case.â.
Oral arguments are held only for high-profile issues. La ViÃ±a said it should be seen as an opportunity to change minds and present an option for a more inclusive meaning of marriage.
âItâs historic. They actually get the chance to be heard. Change always st arts with you getting a seat at the table. The oral arguments is akin to a seat at the table. They are given a chance to defend their position,â La ViÃ±a said.Philippine president challenges Catholic church to 'showdown' Read more
A number of gay couples who attempted but failed to get marriage licenses have also filed a supreme court petition to bolster Falcisâ petition.
The petition has encountered strong opposition from the church. The Phillipines has the largest number of Catholics of any country in Asia â" 74 million as of 2010 or about 80% of the population â" and church opinion looms large over issues like same-sex marriage. The Philippines is the only country other than the Vatican that still bans divorce.
âItâs natural law. Families may only be formed by a man and a woman. What is the purpose of marriage? Itâs openness to life and procreation,â said Manila Auxillary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, echoing a pastoral le tter the church released in 2015 shortly after the petition was filed.
Falcis said the church position is irrelevant to his petition, arguing that the countryâs family code doesnât require married individuals to procreate and that there is no law prohibiting gay couples from adopting.
âI want to emphasise, we are talking about civil or legal marriage. Churches all over the country will still be able to perform their own religious marriages according to their own doctrines,â Falcis said.
Hundreds of LGBT people are planning to gather outside the supreme court, when Falcis argues the case next week.
âThere will be a short program outside the supreme court. There will be performances and statements from allies and supporters. Weâre hoping for around 500 to 1,000 people or even more,â said Vince Liban of U.P. Babaylan, the largest LGBT student organisation based in the University of the Philippines.
âTo be honest, Iâm not sure what to expect. But hope is what keeps the struggle alive. We will try to reason with them,â said Liban.Topics
- Rodrigo Duterte
- Gay marriage
- Asia Pacific
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