One small step

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

The month of June has been a festive and meaningful month for the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies as they came out (pun intended) in droves to celebrate Pride Month. The flashing of the rainbow flag, the parades and the jubilant events (the largest of which happened recently at the Quezon Memorial Circle) were indeed seen, heard and enjoyed. However, more than mere merriment, the Pride Month activities, both big and small, are a form of protest – a call to be given the most basic human rights; a call against discrimination.

As a society, we’ve come quite a way when it comes to Philippine gender politics, but we have not come a long way. Through small baby steps throughout the decades, the queer community can openly celebrate Pride Month nowadays. However, they still suffer injustices and discrimination from a portion of society who cannot understand that gender is not a choice. They still endure being a punchline – or worse, punching bag – of a close-minded many.

It’s small comfort to know that the Quezon City (QC) Government, through Mayor Joy Belmonte, has taken another one of these small steps to empower the LGBTQIA+ sector through the Right To Care program. This will allow queer couples to have one thing they’ve been fighting for: the right to visit and make crucial decisions for their hospitalized life partners.

With the Philippines yet to have legislation for same-sex civil marriages, many queer couples (who are not and cannot be legally married) are always locked out of any visitation or decision rights should their respective partners fall critically ill. They cannot be legally recognized by hospitals as spouses or next of kin.

“There have been reports of LGBTQIA+ community members who were prohibited from making crucial decisions when their partners were admitted to intensive care units of hospitals,” Mayor Belmonte said. As a staunch ally of the sector, she empathized with the hurt that these prohibitions have caused. While some queerfolk are lucky to have family members take care of them when they are bedridden, others, due to discrimination by their own families, are left alone in the hospital because their found-family cannot visit or care for them.

QC’s Right To Care Card hopes to reduce those incidences by empowering queer couples to be recognized as entities who can agree, refuse or withdraw consent of any type of medical care for their partners, including treatment, procedures, tests and prescriptions.

All they have to do is register with the QC Gender and Development (GAD) Office where they will be asked to fill up forms, including the Special Power of Attorney (SPA) contract, which they need to have notarized. Upon submission and validation of all notarized forms and requirements, the QC GAD will provide a physical card with QR codes that can access the digital copy of their validated SPA contract. These can then be presented to hospitals to show that they are legally allowed to be there and decide for their partners.

“We want all of our residents, regardless of  sexual orientation, to be with their partners in critical moments, and we are taking this important step to assure the rainbow community that they are cared for, recognized and valued in Quezon City,” Mayor Belmonte said.

What Mayor Belmonte and QC did is one small but not insignificant step towards equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ people. While we’re still waiting to see massive strides in gender politics, through legalized gender-neutral civil unions and blanket legislation that punishes discrimination based on gender, a few more of these small steps give us hope that we will one day live in a society that is fully accepting of the queer community.

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