Philippines: Proposed Marriage Legislation In Senate Discriminates Against Homosexuals And Transgenders

The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines, known as Progay, urgently seeks letters to support its fight against a recent spate of anti-gay and transgender marriage legislative proposals. In July and August 1998, Senators Marcelo B. Fernan and Miriam Defensor Santiago submitted a series of four bills that bar recognition of marriage involving transgenders, contracted in the Philippines or abroad, and bar recognition of marriages or domestic partnership between two people of the same biological sex contracted in countries that legally recognize such relationships.

Currently, Article 1 of the Philippine Family Code defines marriage as a "special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life." Likewise, Article 2 of the Code stipulates that the contracting parties in marriage must be a male and a female. Threatened by the possibility of trangendered persons participating in this institution, Senator Fernan introduced Senate Bills No. 897 and 898, respectively, to append the *biological* to the word pairs "man"/"woman" and "male"/"female" in these definitions.

Additionally, Article 26 of the Family Code presently reads "all marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, in accordance with the laws in force in the country where they were solemnized, and valid there as such, shall also be valid in this country." This article applies the principle of *lex loci celebrationis,* which holds that the validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the place where it was celebrated, which other jurisdictions agree to respect. However, Senate Bill No. 894 seeks to limit this recognition of marriages outside the country to those specifically between a *biological* man and *biological* woman. Senate Bill No. 1117 proposes the amendment of this article explicitly to exclude same-sex marriages.

Members of Progay urgently wish to mobilize support to defeat these bills. Filipino sexual minorities are deeply concerned that their successful passage could serve as an impetus for a rash of further anti-gay and anti-transgender measures. They also fear the legitimate possibility that highlighting the marriage issue could provoke an intense conservative backlash against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered communities--with the potential to erase any possible broad base for supporting gay marriage, as recently seen in Hawaii and Alaska in the US.

They ask for letters of protest requesting that the sponsoring lawmakers withdraw these bills from the legislative process and instead work for bills that protect the full social, economic, cultural, political, and civil rights of sexual minorities. In your letter, please mention the fact that the administration of President Joseph Estrada signed with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on August 7, 1998, which among other things compels the Republic of the Philippines to prevent violations of and promote the right to form a marital union and to found a family and to ensure family communications and reunions. "The insistence on testing for biological sex before matrimony," according to a Progay spokesperson, "smacks of bureaucratic invasion of privacy, imposes difficulties on couples who want to get married, and can involve invasive testing on women whom the state will force to privately bear the high costs of this unwanted technology."

Due to the sensitive nature of the political situation and the uncertain timing of the bills' consideration, Progay asks that supporters write letters addressed to the Senate but mailed to the Progay office so that they can be presented collectively during Congressional hearings.

Please send letters to:

Progay-Philippines
P.O. Box 1764 QCCPO,
1157 PHILIPPINES

To facilitate Progay's efforts in documenting these letters, please send a text copy of your letters via e-mail to: progay@yahoo.com

A sample letter might read:

Senate President Marcelo Fernan and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago,

I am/We are seriously concerned about the bills you filed in Congress, which seek to legally define people according to biological sex and systematically exclude people, especially homosexuals and transgenders, who want to get married but are not allowed due to the existing Family Code.

These bills are unjust because they prevent people from fully exercising their democratic rights. Existing laws and reality already discriminate against homosexual behavior, and Senate Bills 894, 897, 898, and 1117, if enacted, will open the door to official persecution of real or suspected sexual minorities. These bills can encourage bigoted people to threaten and defame gays, lesbians, and transgendered people.

Please withdraw the anti-gay marriage bills you filed earlier and instead support the realization of human rights enshrined in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which was signed by the government on August 7, 1998. Please work for laws that will uplift the conditions of sexual minorities.

Thank you.

Signatory/ies