By Juliet Blalack
While in Malawi a gay couple sits in jail for their marriage, in Manila, House Representative Bienvenido Abante Jr. is pushing a bill that would criminalize gay marriage in the Philippines.
Never mind that same-sex marriages (or even civil unions) aren't recognized in the Philippines yet. Apparently the possibility of gay couples having private ceremonies is keeping Abante up at night.
House Bill 6919 recommends punishments for both the couple applying for a marriage license and the minister officiating the ceremony. If the bill passes, the newlyweds could get sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and a fine of P150,000 (about $3,200 USD). If either of them happens to work in the government, she/he will be fired and blacklisted from all public sector jobs.
Perhaps Abante is feeling a tad nervous about another bill in the Filipino House which would outlaw discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. He gave a speech condemning the bill as "death to a just and humane society." His explanation? It would lead to discrimination against heterosexuals.
It could be plausible that Abante was just looking out for the rights of heterosexuals if he hadn't, say, wrote his own bill declaring gay marriage criminal. Or stated that preventing discrimination against LGBT people "will encourage social aberrations as well as moral decadence."
This type of representation hardly seems appropriate for a staunch democracy whose constitution promises "the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights."
Lagablab, an organization advocating for LGBT rights in the Philippines, called for the resignation of Abante. And perhaps he does seem more fitted for some other career -- like maybe a return to the pulpit full-time (Abante is a Baptist minister).
Abante's bill to criminalize same-sex marriages is currently being considered by the Population and Family Relations Committee of the Philippines. Let's watch and hope that the Family Relations Committee members are more equality-minded.