Duterte to push for same-sex marriage, draws mixed reactions from various groups

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Speaking to the LGBT community in Davao, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants to push for same sex marriage. (FILE PHOTO)

Updated with reactions from LGBT groups and lawmakers.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 17) — LGBT groups and advocates gave mixed reactions to President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of support for same-sex marriage, a turnaround from his stance months before.

"If that is the trend of the modern times, if that will add to your happiness, I am all for it," Duterte said in a speech at a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) gathering in Davao City Sunday.

In a trip to Vietnam in March, Duterte previously said he was against same-sex marriage, asserting that the law only recognizes unions between a man and a woman in this predominantly Catholic country. Then during the presidential elections in 2016, he said while he was against same-sex marriage, he would consider legalizing it.

READ: Duterte opposes same-sex marriage for 'Catholic' Philippines

"Ako, gusto ko same-sex marriage. Ang problema we have to change the law. But we can change the law," Duterte said.

LGBT groups and advocates were cautiously optimistic on Monday, and hoped the President's approval to legalize same-sex marriage will translate into support for a pending bill to recognize all civil unions.

Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman, the country's first transgender politician, said it is more realistic to push for the legal rights of all couples, same-sex or not.

"I think the more feasible option 'yung [is] civil partnership, which has already been filed by the (House) Speaker," she said in a phone interview. "It aims to regulate lahat ng [all] civil relationships outside marriage," she added.

Roman was referring to House Bill 6595, which she and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed. The measure, which is still pending with the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality, seeks to recognize all civil unions regardless of gender.

Under the Family Code, marriage is only recognized between a man and a woman.

Side B Philippines, a group for bisexuals, said they prefer civil unions to same-sex marriage because the term "marriage" may refer to religious unions which are predominantly heterosexual.

"We want to make it clear that this is about the legal things and benefits that we can get out of it as persons of diverse SOGIE," Fire Sia, Side B Philippines founder, said—referring to the acronym for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identitiy and Gender Expression.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) put a brake on the President's support.

They are hoping the President and lawmakers will listen to all stakeholders regarding the issue, said CBCP Committee on Public Affairs Executive Secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano said.

"Nothing yet is cast in stone. We believe the best way to deal with contentious issues is through dialogue," he said in a statement, Monday.

The Philippine Catholic Church has long opposed same-sex marriage, insisting that union between two people of the same gender contradicts natural law, and inhibits the purpose of marriage which is procreation.

Appoint LGBT rep to urban poor commission

The President then said he wants an LGBT representative appointed to the Philippine Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP). He previously fired the PCUP chair and threatened to do the same to all commissioners, accusing them of going on unnecessary junkets  abroad.

READ: Duterte offers urban poor commission post to CNN Hero Efren Peñaflorida

"Kasi I fired the entire commission of the urban poor...the head was traveling so much in so short a time, as if he was using the money of the people like his own. So 'yang commission na 'yan, bubuuin ko 'yan [I'd like to fix the commission]. I'd like a gay, or lesbian there, somewhere," he added.

READ: Palace clarifies: Duterte to fire officials, not abolish urban poor commission

Duterte said he wants someone honest and hardworking to represent the LGBT community.

"Now find me the brightest dito sa Pilipinas ngayon. Bigyan niyo ako ng bright na tao [Nominate someone bright]. He might be gay, (she) might be lesbian," he said.