Padilla seeks equal rights for same-sex couples in civil union bill

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
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.

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Robinhood Padilla has filed a bill that seeks to give same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by married straight couples under the law, saying it is 'high time" for the Philippines to do so.

"It is high time that the Philippines provides equal rights and recognition for couples of the same sex with no prejudice as to sexual relationships are protected and recognized and given access to basic social protection and security," Padilla said in Senate Bill No. 449 filed last month but only made publicly available on Thursday.

Under his proposal, a civil union can happen between two people who are 18 years old, not engaged in a relationship considered contrary to public policy under the Articles 37 and 38 of the Family Code, and free from any previous bond of marriage or civil union.

Those who enter into civil unions will be granted "all benefits and protections" enjoyed by married couples under existing laws.

Meanwhile, couples who enter into civil unions "legally owe each other respect, fidelity, support and assistance."

"They are bound to live together and are jointly responsible in the management of their household; exercise of parental authority, if applicable; the contribution towards expenses; the maintenance of the civil union residence; and other duties which married couples under the Family Code are jointly responsible for," the bill reads.

The bill also provides a fine of at least P500,000 to P1 million or jail time of 10 years for people who refuse to issue civil union licenses or certificates, deny rights and benefits entitled to couples in civil unions, or discriminate against couples or their children.

"Providing equal rights and privileges for same-sex couples will in no way diminish or trample on the rights granted to married couples," Padilla said.

A similar measure has been filed in the House of Representatives by Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy in the hopes that it would finally pass Congress after failing to do so in the 17th and 18th Congresses.

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 was challenged before the Supreme Court by lawyer Jesus Falcis in 2018, but magistrates junked his petition on procedural grounds.

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 at the committee level.

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

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