House tackles bill legalizing same sex, live-in partnerships

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 31) — A House panel on Wednesday discussed a bill legalizing same sex and live-in relationships, calling it civil partnership.

If the bill becomes law, same sex and live-in couples may be able to enjoy benefits given to married couples.

House Bill 6595 is principally authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

The bill proposes "to allow couples to enter into a civil partnership, whether they are of the opposite or of the same sex."

The bill's explanatory note states that the bill "aims to be a landmark effort to provide civil rights, benefits and responsibilities to couples, previously unable to marry, by giving them due recognition and protection from the State."

Specifically, section 11 states that "all benefits and protections as are granted to spouses in a marriage under existing laws, administrative orders, court rulings, or those derived as a matter of public policy, or any other source of civil law," shall be granted to civil partnership couples.

Laws relating to marital relations, including adoption, and child custody and support, labor standard benefits and privileges accorded to employees based on marital status, inheritance rights, and property rights shall also apply to civil partners.

They shall also enjoy the same rights and privileges as granted to married couples insofar as social security and insurance membership, and claiming entitlement to their benefits are concerned.

Bill authors, House Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin and Geraldine Roman, said the bill seeks to give equal rights to couples, regardless of gender.

Garin said legalizing civil partnerships is not the same as marriage.

"The effect is the same but we are not touching marriage. This is not a marriage per se. Legally, I would say the effects up to a certain point is the same pero it will not be called a marriage," said Garin.

"Civil partnership is more of, we recognize you as a couple and we will give you rights as to any married couple. You are not married pero bibigyan kayo ng property rights pag namatay yung isa, may mga anak kayo for adoption rights. You will be given, as any other Filipino. You will not be discriminated because of your gender. What we are trying to do is pantay-pantay na lang lahat," she added.

Roman said there are benefits to marriage that will not be present even if civil partnerships are legalized.

"Marriage has other effects. Marriage for example, has sanctifying grace. Marriage for example, I don't know what your religious belief system gives marriage but those effects are not present here," she said.

Some lawmakers, however, expressed reservation on the bill.

AGBIAG party-list Representative Michelle Antonio says she is in favor of legalizing civil partnerships between same sex couples, but not civil partnerships between opposite sex couples.

"I think it defeats the mere basis of the Family Code. It might even encourage co-habitation lalo na yung mga batang bata. Napakadali na sa kanila if given a choice between marriage and partnership. Siyempre mas madali na sa kanila ang conjugal partnership," said Antonio.

But for Garin, couples should have a choice whether or not they want to get married.

"Kung ako, lalaki-babae, ano gagawin ko? Do I go for marriage or do I go for civil partnership? That's your choice. That's a choice that's given. There are some couples that do not believe in marriage. That's their belief. But what we are trying to protect is those who are not allowed to have a marriage ceremony be given equal rights in a civil partnership," said Garin.

Similarly, Roman says it is a reality that there are some couples, who are in a loving relationship but do not want to get married.

"There is no reason to fear the civil partnership bill. It is simply being realistic. It is simply being democratic for us to recognize that there are some Filipinos who are not married or who choose not to be married but are in stable, loving relationships. And they too, as Filipinos deserve a legal recognition and all of the rights and obligations that this recognition entails," said Roman.