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Civil partnerships for straight, same-sex couples pushed anew in House

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
pride
A member of the LGBT community raises a rainbow flag during the Metro Manila Pride March at the Cultural Center of the Philippines grounds in Pasay, Metro Manila on June 25, 2022.
JAM STA ROSA / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — A bill that seeks to recognize civil partnerships of couples of any sex has been refiled in the House of Representatives, in a move that seeks to grant same-sex couples the same benefits enjoyed by straight married couples.

Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera filed anew the proposed Civil Partnership Act as part of her priority measures in the upcoming 19th Congress, hoping that the measure which did not hurdle the past two Congresses would finally get enacted into law this time.

“It is about time that the Philippine government grant couples — whether they are of the opposite or of the same sex — adequate legal instruments to recognize their partnerships, respecting their dignity and recognizing equality before the law,” Herrera said in the explanatory note of House Bill No. 1015.

The bill, she said, will be a “landmark effort to provide civil rights, benefits and responsibilities to couples previously unable to marry, giving them due recognition and protection from the State.”

The measure provides that no civil partnership is valid unless those involved are at least 18 years old, not prohibited to enter into a civil partnership by reason of public policy such as blood relations, and are free from any existing bond of marriage or civil partnership.

Those who enter into civil partnerships will be granted all benefits and protections granted to spouses in a marriage under existing laws, administrative orders, court rulings or those derived as a matter of public policy or any other source of civil law.

“Ultimately, at the core of a civil partnership are fully consenting adults who, like many Filipinos, merely wish to love, care and support each other as they build a life together during their fleeting time here on Earth,” Herrera said.

Under the bill, those who wish to enter into a civil partnership should separately file a sworn application to enter into a civil partnership contract with the proper local civil registrar.

Civil partnership couples may fix their property relations by executing a pre-civil partnership agreement.

The proposal also provides a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 or jail time of a year to six years for people who refuse to issue civil partnership contracts despite being authorized to do so. The penalty could also be imposed on people who would deny the rights and benefits of couples in civil partnerships, commit discriminatory employment practices, or commit unlawful and discriminatory practices to children of couples in civil partnerships.

Hard time passing

Currently, same-sex couples are not allowed to marry as the Family Code defines marriage as a “special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman.”

The constitutionality of the Family Code provision has been challenged before the Supreme Court by lawyer Jesus Falcis in 2018, but magistrates junked his petition on procedural grounds.

“These restrict basic liberties that are available to most citizens, despite these couples taking part in loving, committed and long-term relationships,” Herrera said.

Among the pains experienced by same-sex couples lamented by Herrera is their inability to declare their partners as beneficiaries of social security and insurance plans. She said they are also unable to inherit through intestate rights in the event of the death of their partner.

A civil partnership bill was first filed in the House during the speakership of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez in the 17th Congress by himself and other lawmakers, but this did not pass the committee level.

Alvarez and Herrera refiled the bill in the 18th Congress, but it also got stuck in the committee.

A counterpart bill has yet to be filed in the Senate.

While Herrera identified enacting a law recognizing civil partnerships as part of her legislative priorities, it remains to be seen whether this will also be prioritized by congressional leaders.

To complicate things further, pro-LGBTQIA+ legislation has had a hard time passing through Congress as conservative lawmakers have successfully employed parliamentary tactics to delay or even completely block the passage of these measures.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

LGBTQIA+

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