The lawyer who wants to strike down the heterosexual limits on marriage in the law faced the scrutiny of the magistrates of the Supreme Court in the oral arguments for the case on Tuesday afternoon.
Jesus Nicardo Falcis III, a public interest lawyer who asked the SC to nullify some provisions of the Family Code for being "unconstitutional," was first grilled by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who wasted no time in warning the younger attorney that he was rallying against a "powerful heteronormative culture."
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, where divorce is still illegal, where marriage, at least according to the Family Code, is limited to a union between a man and a woman, and where lesbianism and homosexuality are grounds for annulment.
On the other hand, a measure penalizing discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation, gender identity and expression has been approved by the House of Representatives last year; a counterpart bill is pending before the Senate.
Leonen, during his interpellation, pressed Falcis about what he found so significant about granting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples the freedom to marry when civil unions exist as an alternative.
Falcis, who identifies as a gay man, said LGBT couples would lose access to a "bundle of legal rights" as their relationships are not legally recognized.
"What is this with recognition; what is it that is added by the legal recognition of marriage?" Leonen asked.
"The legal recognition of same-sex relationships under marriage would allow them to access numerous rights and obligations, Your Honor, like the right to make decisions for their partner in the event of a medical accident where one person is in comatose," Falcis said.
"In the status quo, Your Honor, they cannot assert and demand by right to be in the hospital and make the decisions for their partner or they cannot inherit or they cannot claim SSS, GSIS benefits, Your Honor," he added.
Falcis said that despite the possibility of civil union, LGBT couples, unlike their heterosexual counterparts, remain without the option of marriage.
"Our submission Your Honor is that heterosexual couples may or may not marry but LGBT couples do not have the same choices to marry or not marry, Your Honors. And as Filipinos, as taxpayers, as human beings with dignity, the Constitution requires that their rights be guaranteed as well," Falcis said.
Leonen then pressed him if a marriage certificate was necessary for an LGBT family to contribute to society. Falcis answered in the negative.
When asked if that same family can be as "strong" as that of married heterosexual couples, Falcis said "maybe in their own private spheres," but that public dealings, such as those with government, "will not be given the same priority."
For her part, Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe questioned Falcis' legal standing to bring the petition before the SC, given the contention that he has not suffered a direct injury by the enactment of the Family Code because he himself has not attempted to apply for a marriage license. —JST, GMA News