LGBTQ can use restrooms for persons with disability under House-approved SOGIE Equality Bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 26) — Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community can use restrooms for persons with disabilities under the House-approved SOGIE Equality Bill, one of its principal authors said Tuesday.

"Under this version of the bill, makakapasok na ang transwomen doon sa cubicle na special [transwomen can use the special cubicle] that is allocated to people with disabilities," Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"Through the law we state that establishments are encouraged to construct gender-neutral bathrooms," she added. Roman made history by becoming the first transgender woman to be elected to Congress in the Philippines.

She credited the idea of allowing LGBTQ to use the restrooms for persons with disabilities to BUHAY Party-list Representative Lito Atienza, who previously opposed the bill.

Roman is one of the authors of the Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) Equality Act, or House Bill 4982, which the House of Representatives unanimously passed on September 20.

Related: House approves anti-discrimination bill on 3rd and final reading

The proposal prohibits and penalizes the public outing, shaming, and denial of access to public and health services to members of the LGBTQ community on the basis of gender discrimination.

The bill, which struggled in the lower house for 18 years, has a counterpart measure filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros pending second reading at the Senate.

Roman said she was confident that the upper house would receive the bill positively, despite anticipated opposition from Senate conservatives Manny Pacquiao and Tito Sotto.

"He has a heart that is big enough to welcome members of the [LGBTQ] community and to recognize our rights as Filipinos. Kailangan nga lang, papaliwanagan natin ng husto (We just have to explain it clearly to him)," Roman said of Pacquiao.

"Kung naunawaan ng kanyang nakababatang kapatid, nakakasiguro ako na makakaintindi rin [siya]," she added.

(Translation: If his younger brother understood, I'm sure he will too.)

Among those who signed on as co-author of the SOGIE bill is Sarangani Representative Ruel Pacquiao, the senator's brother.

The elder Pacquiao drew flak from the LGBTQ community when he said same sex couples were "worse than animals" in an interview that went viral last year.

She added Sotto was also primarily concerned with the issue of restrooms.

"Na-address na ng lower house... He's a very reasonable person," said Roman. "Wala nang dahilan kung bakit tututulan pa niya itong panukalang batas na ito."

(Translation: The lower house has addressed it... He's a very reasonable person... There is no more reason for him to still object to this bill.)

Roman said she plans to "talk to the Senators one by one" to gain support for the bill.

"I'm confident that because their very valid concerns were addressed in the lower house... they might change their minds," she said.