SOGIE equality bill reintroduced to the Senate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 17) - Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday pushed again for the passage of a bill that seeks to ban discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

The new measure called "SOGIESC-based Anti-Discrimination" bill now includes prohibiting marginalization and violence based on sex characteristics. 

In her sponsorship speech, Hontiveros stressed that the measure aims to protect everyone from discrimination, not just the LGTBQ+ community.

"Lahat ng tao ay may sexual orientation at gender identity or expression," she said. "Ang sinasabi lang natin, straight ka mang lalake o babae, bakla, lesbyana, bisexual, transgender o queer, lahat tayo ay may ambag sa lipunan, lahat tayo pantay-pantay."

[Translation: Each one of us has a sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. What we are trying to say is whether you are a straight man or woman, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, we all have a contribution to society, we are all equal.]

The measure was signed by Hontiveros, chairperson of the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, with members Nancy Binay, Imee Marcos, Grace Poe, Leila De Lima, as well as ex-officio members Ralph Recto, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Franklin Drilon. The rest of the Senate will have a chance to discuss the bill once it resumes session in January.

Last year, the measure's predecessor, the Anti-Discrimination bill, failed to hurdle Congress due to opposition from conservative lawmakers. Solons against the bill argued that it would hamper religious and academic freedom. 

Recently, however, no less than the head of the Catholic Church himself, Pope Francis, expressed support for LGBTQ+ individuals and even endorsed same sex unions.

"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They're children of God and have a right to a family," said the Pope in October. Hontiveros also mentioned the quote in her speech. 

Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, a long-time opponent of the SOGIE bills, doubted that the Pope's pronouncement will have any bearing on Philippine legislation.

A SOGIE equality bill was first proposed in 11th Congress which means it has now been two decades since the fight against gender-based discrimination began, Hontiveros pointed out.

In the previous Congress, the Senate version of the bill reached 902 calendar days, six interpellations and five inquiries, since its sponsorship in 2016 before it languished on second reading in June 2019. On the other hand, the House of Representatives passed a similar measure without dissent or abstentation in 2017. 

"May the 18th Congress be the Congress that would finally put this bill into a vote," urged Hontiveros. "May we be known as the legislators-allies who stood up against discrimination and fought for equality."