Real Life Story
The Pope brings hope to LGBTQIA couples in the Philippines
A bill aiming to give same-sex couples in the Philippines spousal and property rights has languished in the House of Representatives for years due to strong opposition from the country's influential Catholic Church.
But after Pope Francis' stunning endorsement of same-sex civil unions last year, the lawmaker who first submitted the legislation is optimistic that resistance from her conservative colleagues beginning to fade.
"There are so many limitations that we have set in our laws in the country today that do not fit the society we have right now," Bernadette Herrera-Dy said. She added that she senses a major shift in thinking on the issue in Congress as well in recent times.
"Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it," Pope Francis told filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky for the feature-length documentary "Francesco" released last year. "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that," he said.
Released on October 21, 2020, the documentary offered a glimmer of hope for gay Catholics across the world.
In the Catholic-majority Philippines, the Pope's statement had made a tremendous impact. Though the conservative Church leaders were the defensive, hopes soared among same-sex couples send marriage advocates, even if it meant settling for civil unions or civil partnerships.
A spokesperson of the President Rodrigo Duterte - a supporter of gay marriage rights - said the pontiff's remarks should clear the way for change.
The Philippines is the biggest Catholic stronghold in Asia, and Church leaders influence politics, policy and day-to-day life. They have opposed same-sex marriage bills, anti-discrimination bills and pushes to legalize abortion, which can be punishable by jail time in the country.
"With no less than the Pope supporting it, I think even the most conservative of all Catholics in Congress should no longer have a basis for objecting to it," spokesperson Harry Roque announced to the Philippines.
A year ago, when the news about the pontiff's interview broke, a retired bishop in the Philippines said he was "scandalized by his defense of homosexual union, which surely leads to immoral acts." But the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has defended Francis, saying he has not changed the church's traditional stance on marriage between a man and a woman, which is different from a civil union.
But beyond the state and the church, couples hope for better days to come. "The Catholic Church must be progressive," said Filipino singer Ice Seguerra, who identifies as a transgender man. Seguerra's marriage to actress Liza Diño-Seguerra, though recognized in the U.S.A, isn't in the Philippines yet. "We are being limited by conservative beliefs," Liza told VICE news. Even though there's still a long way to go, the seeds of change have been sown.
According to lawyer Jesus Falcis, who petitioned the Supreme Court of the Philippines to allow same-sex marriage in 2015, the statement will inevitably "push the conversation" forward at a time when gay rights are expanding in the region, with Taiwan leading the way.
"What I've seen is there's now a distinction or an ability from the Catholic Church to distinguish the legal side from the religious side. They're carving out a space for the support of the LGBT community while maintaining the 'moral teachings of the church,'" Falcis told VICE News.
Even though his petition had failed earlier from a matter of legal standing, recent updates from the court indicate that politicians are vocalising their support for same-sex unions. “Regarding same-sex marriage, it’s worth taking a look and Congress should change the definition in family code,” stated Sandiganbayan Justice Econg recently.
Though same-sex couples know that obstacles still crowd their way, they also know that there’s reason for hope. The LGBTQIA community in the Philippines have reasons to celebrate love that has been stigmatised for so long. Admittedly, the times are changing.
Did you like this story?