SOGIE Equality Bill needed to address LGBTQ+ sector’s special needs – solon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 16) — A lawmaker stressed that a bill seeking to ban discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) is needed to address the special needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) sector.

Mga kababayan, hindi po kami humihingi ng mga special rights and privileges. Kaya nga lang po, talagang may isang sektor na may espesyal na pangangailangan na hindi natutugunan kasi noong araw, hindi naman natin naiintindihan at hindi tanggap ‘yung LGBTQ [sector,]” Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman, the country’s first transgender lawmaker, told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Friday.

[Translation: My countrymen, we are not asking for special rights and privileges. It’s just that there is a sector with special needs which have not been addressed before because, back then, the LGBTQ sector was not understood or accepted.]

Roman added that a bill that aims to shield LGBTQ+ people from discrimination needs to be separate from a wider anti-discrimination bill, for the same reasons that other laws were crafted to protect women, children and persons with disabilities.

“[These are] different sectors that have been traditionally marginalized in our society,” she said.

The arrest of a transgender woman for trying to use the ladies’ restroom in Farmers Plaza in Quezon City has sparked a renewed push for the passage of a law that penalizes discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

READ: ‘Justice should be served’: Transgender woman to file charges vs. QC mall management, staff over restroom ordeal

Such a measure, called the SOGIE Equality Bill, was passed by the House of Representatives in the previous Congress, but was blocked from passing in the Senate by senators who repeatedly insisted to interpellate the proposed law.

Several lawmakers have refiled the measure in both chambers of Congress.

But some solons still doubt the necessity of passing this law, which they deem to be so specific for LGBTQ+ people, even if advocates have said that this will also protect straight people from discrimination based on their SOGIE.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri has said that some senators would rather pass a more comprehensive anti-discrimination bill that also bans discrimination on the basis of age, ethnicity and religious belief, among others.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has filed such a bill in the upper house, while Roman filed a similar measure in the lower chamber.

However, Roman still filed a separate bill banning discrimination on the basis of SOGIE.

Hinihiwalay ko po ‘yung sa LGBTQ kasi iba rin ang kanilang circumstances,” she said.

[Translation: I am separating the measure for the LGBTQ because they face different circumstances.]

She also allayed fears that this would lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the country, saying these concerns are “baseless” and “misinformed.”

The bill shielding LGBTQ+ people from discrimination has been languishing in Congress for almost a decade.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte will support the SOGIE Equality Bill, but could not say whether he will certify it as urgent.

READ: Panelo: President 'conscious' not to offend LGBT community despite claims of having sexuality 'cured'

Certifying a bill as ‘urgent’ allows it to be passed on third and final reading, immediately after it is passed on second reading. Normally, a bill needs to wait three days after it is passed on second reading before it is passed on final reading.

Pending the passage of a national law banning discrimnation on the basis of SOGIE, LGBTQ+ advocates are instead banking on local ordinances for their protection.