10 couples exchange vows in Baguio's first same-sex wedding

- Artemio Dumlao -

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines  – At least 10 couples are exchanging vows today as the City of Pines holds its first mass same-sex wedding. 

After 2 p.m., the couples will be pronounced “partners for life,” veering away from the conventional “husband and wife” pronouncements.

The Catholic Church, though eerily silent, is obviously angry at the turn of events.

“These unions are an anomaly,” said Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate. 

Baguio witnessed its first same-sex wedding in November 2003. Today, the city will experience the first mass same-sex wedding, preceding the 5th Baguio Lesbian, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Parade.

“Marriage is for man and woman. What is wrong is wrong. This is an insult to the institution (of marriage) and we should not support such,” Cenzon said.

He added that the Church and Filipino society cannot accept such an anomaly because “it is a disorder.”

Unperturbed, the Metropolitan Community Church of Metro Baguio (MCCMB) is hosting the mass same-sex wedding and has prepared out pre-wedding counseling before the event in various areas in the country.

It has also handed out to interested LGBT couples their own “Requirements for Holy Union.” 

“We should pity these people. They are probably having a hard time. Although we can understand them as we are trying to accept them, however, unions (as husbands and wives) are not exceptions (to the Church). Accepting LGBTs are not synonymous to accepting them also in their sexual activities,” Cenzon said.

Eight years ago, David and Alex (not their real names), both professionals, exchanged wedding vows and rings in front of their families and friends.

David, a cultural arts worker, and Alex, a business consultant, formalized their relationship in a holy union officiated by Fr. Richard Mickley, founder of the Order of St. Aelred and known to have officiated same-sex marriages elsewhere in the country.

Unlike the Catholic’s holy matrimony, a “holy union” doesn’t require legal documents, the MCCMB said. People enter holy union as a holy sacrament that seeks divine blessings for the love they share to one another.

Proponents of same-sex marriage in Congress have been pushing for the legislation of equal right for gays and lesbians but have always encountered strong opposition, particularly from the Catholic Church.

In 1994, the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) led the first gay and lesbian pride march in the country. Since then, Filipino homosexuals have marched in an annual public pride parade every June and a number of grassroots LGBT groups have lobbied the government for official recognition of their basic human rights.

The mass wedding rites is anchored on “Let’s celebrate our right to Love because we believe that Love is not a heterosexual privilege. Love knows no gender and God loves us all regardless of sexual orientation.”

“The rite of holy union is one of the rites of the Metropolitan Community Churches all over the world as stated in Article III Section C paragraph 3 of the bylaws of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches,” the MCCMB said.

According to what the non-traditional church believes, “the rite of the holy union” is the spiritual joining of two persons in a manner fitting and proper by a duly authorized clergy, interim pastoral leader of the church or UFMCC Elders.

After both persons have undergone counseling and apprised of their responsibilities toward one another, this rite of conferring God’s blessing is performed.

Aside from these precepts, all other traditional wedding rites are present in the same-sex marriage vows officiated under the MCCMB like reception, rings, veil, cord, candles, flower arrangements, and choir.

Still, Cenzon said, “It is not acceptable and should not be supported.”

Seeking UN support

Meanwhile, Filipino LGBTs are seeking the support of the United Nations in their fight for human rights.

“Rights violations allegedly committed by the government and private parties against transgender Filipinos may soon be subject to international legal censure and corrective measures, if we get the attention of the United Nations,” Cye Reyes during an LGBT forum here.

“Already, three Filipino transwomen has filed a suit with the UN Human Rights Committee under the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said lawyer Evalyn Ursua.

The suit focused on the refusal of the government to recognize the change of their gender in legal documents and to address discrimination in the public and private sectors.

Ursua said she is confident that the UN Human Rights Committee will make findings of human rights violations against transsexuals by the Philippine government and direct it to pass laws and undertake other measures addressing gender identity and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Carol Galvez of the Cordillera People’s Alliance and Oscar Atadero of ProGay Philippines both cited the need for more advocacy highlighting the needs of transgenders.

Galvez zeroed in on the rising incidence of hate crimes committed against transgenders in Metro Baguio.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño, spokesman of the Makabayan Coalition, in a message to the forum, urged support for the anti-discrimination measure he filed in Congress, House Bill 1483, which seeks to protect gender identity rights and help transgenders get free access to many public facilities that are frequently denied them.

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