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Gov't agencies back bills seeking civil partnership for same-sex couples

Several government agencies and advocacy groups on Wednesday expressed support for the two House bills that seek to recognize civil partnerships, including those of LGBTQI couples.

During a hearing of the House Committee on Population and Family Relations, the authors of the bills — Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez and Bagong Henerasyon party-list Representative Bernadette Herrera — clarified that they are not proposing to legalize same-sex marriage.

"We really removed the solemnizing officer. We removed all references to union so that this will just really become a civil partnership just to accord civil rights to couples who cannot be married under the present laws that we have today. So no reference to marriage, no reference to union," Herrera said.

In pushing for the approval of the bill, Herrera said, "Civil partnership has been recognized in many countries around the world and they have been proven to be an effective means of extending legal protection to same sex couples."

She noted that although society has become more open about issues concerning LGBTQIs, there are still those who are discriminated against.

"They are excluded from entering into legally recognized and protected partnerships. They cannot declare their partners as beneficiaries under social security and insurance plans. Further, they are unable to inherit in the event of the death of their partners," Herrera said.

Alvarez, for his part, said many in same-sex partnerships are not accepted by their own families.

"Many members of the LGBT community are rejected, abandoned, and shamed by their own families. And yet when they’ve been able to build through hard work something they can call their own, the person whom they built it with is not by law entitled to a share in the fruits of their common labor," he said.

"Instead, by law, it is the family that abandoned and shamed them, they are the compulsary heirs."

Alvarez mentioned that all are equal in their obligations to the state such as paying taxes, but are unequal when it comes to benefits. He said it is high time that inequality is addressed by Congress.

Among those who have expressed support for the bills are the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of Social Welfare and Development.

"The department would like to reiterate its support on the initiatives of the honorable representatives in introducing bills that aim to protect the identity and promote the equality of all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity," DSWD Assistant Secretary Irene Dumlao told the committee.

Other agencies that also expressed support were the Commission on Human Rights, the Government Service Insurance System, the Social Security System, Philippine Statistics Authority, and the Philippine Commission on Women.

The Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP,) an advocacy group, and the UP Gender Law and Policy Progam also threw their support behind the bills.

The PCW and the DSWP also recommended the deletion of a requirement for couples to cohabitate for two years as it may be discriminatory.

"There are some couples who may be living apart or are in long distance relationship due to work assignment," Annette Baleda of PCW told the committee.

"In terms of making the relationship public, again this may discriminate against persons of diverse SOGIE who opted to keep their relationships private," DSWP's Elizabeth Angsioco said.

The Coalition of Christians for Change, however, opposed the proposals even though the group agreed with some of the provisions such as co-ownership as well as insurance and pension benefits.

"We are hesitant to support the criminal and civil liabilities on the private organizations and individuals who do not recognize the civil partnership," Obed dela Cruz, who spoke for the group, said.

The committee has created a technical working group to consolidate the two bills and the inputs of the resource persons.  —KBK, GMA Integrated News

Tags: lgbtqi, news