Some religious leaders back SOGIE bill

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Some religious leaders back SOGIE bill

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — Some religious leaders on Wednesday backed the bill that protects members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community against discrimination.

Leaders of faith-based groups attended the Senate panel hearing into the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill — with the room split into those for and against the measure.

Bishop Solito Toquiero from the National Council of the Churches Philippines said the religious institution supports the SOGIE bill despite backlash from some religious groups that it goes against the teachings of the Church.

"Matagal na nating dini-discriminate ang mga LGBTQIA, kaya't umayon kami sa bill na ito... It doesn't discriminate religious freedom. Ito ay nagbibigay kalayaan at pagpapahalaga sa LGBTQIA," he said.

[Translation: The LGBTQIA have long been discriminated, that’s why this bill has to be passed. The bill gives freedom and importance to the community.]

Sister Mary John Mananzan from St. Scholastica's College said the bill that penalizes all forms of discrimination against the queer community should be made into law because there is a need to provide equal access to members of the LGBTQ+ community in terms of education, employment, and social services. She said it doesn't discriminate other sectors of society.

"I don't see the SOGIE bill giving any special right to the LGBT community. We are just saying that the rights of everybody should also be applied to them," she said.

Mananzan also shared her personal stance in favor of the bill.

“As a religious woman, I believe in the respect, compassion, and reverence for all persons because they were all created in the image and likeness of God,” she said.

She said St. Scholastica School, a largely-exclusive school for girls, has yet to discuss the admission of transgender women.

Union Theological Seminary, the oldest protestant seminary in the country, also allayed the worries of some people that the SOGIE bill will step on their religious beliefs.

"The SOGIE bill does not infringe on religious freedom. On the contrary, it represents what most religions advocate — human equality, human dignity, and human rights," Pastor Kakay Pamaran said.

With the support also comes some backlash.

Coalition of Concerned Families of the Philippines expressed disapproval of the "one-sided bill" because it allegedly favors feelings over facts.

"The bill title itself is based on feelings — sexual orientation and gender identity are subjective. Fact is yielding to feelings. Na-criminalize pa ang mga maninindigan based on facts [Those who stick to facts will be penalized]. Under SOGIE bill, the gender identity overrules physiological characteristics," Lyndon Caña said.

He also insisted on referring to one of the transgender woman in the Senate discussion as a "he." This led to Women, Family Relations and Gender Equality Committee Chairperson Risa Hontiveros to remind the resource persons to respect and observe the use of proper pronouns for transgenders.

"Let's keep this a safe space. Refer to trans women as 'she,' 'ma'am,'" she said.

Senator Nany Binay defended Caña, saying Hontiveros should not force the resource persons to use the proper pronouns.

“Huwag din naman natin i-impose ang belief ng Chair, just to be fair. Kung ang belief nila na ang trans women ay 'mister,' payagan din natin,” she said.

[Translation: Let us not impose our beliefs. If they believe that trans women are men, let’s allow them.’]

Cesar Buendia, who represented a group of former LGBT members, said the bill will discriminate against Christians.

“SOGIE bill excessively discriminatory against the majority of Filipinos. SOGIE bill will make those of us who believe in the Christian story second-class citizens,” he said.

Some guests against the bill relayed personal experiences of being “transformed” through the word of God.

Radem Moralos, a Muslim from Mindanao, said there are stories of conversion therapy in Muslim communities through forced marriages, forced military training, and harassment. He said the SOGIE bill will address the problems Mindanaoan queers face.

“The lives and human dignity of the LGBT in Mindanao are far worse compared to those in Luzon. The SOGIE bill will protect them from violence. The SOGIE bill will address the commonality of all religions, which is to protect everyone regardless of faith, gender, and race,” he said.