Cover Gay Pride attendees display posters asking for equal rights for the LGBT community at the Remedios Circle in Manila. -- Dubbed as the longest running Gay Pride Parade in Asia, the 2013 Manila Pride march was attended by different LGBT groups asking for equal rights and the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. Photo: J Gerard Seguia/NurPhoto (Photo by NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)

Respect and equality shouldn't be too much to ask for

Almost anywhere in the world today, there is at least a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) community who suffers from discrimination and violence perpetrated by a society that thrives in ill beliefs and traditions. For decades, the plight of the LGBTQIA+ community was among the problems hardly addressed by modern society, evident in the rising number of brutal killings, criticisms, and misgendering. 

In the Phillippines, there is a bill seeking to end gender-based discrimination: the Anti-Discrimination Bill or the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill which was proposed by Congress in 2000. It aims to end gender-based discrimination by penalising people involved in such activity. 

It was initially filed by the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago and former Akbayan party-list Representative Etta Rosales. The current version of the bill is being backed by Bataan 1st district Representative Geraldine Roman and Akbayan Partylist Representative Tom Villarin in the House and Risa Hontiveros in the Senate.

Despite being around for two decades, the proposed law has yet to hurdle legislation. In this article, Tatler provides its humble platform to clarify a few arguments being thrown against the SOGIE Equality Bill. 

More from Tatler: It's A Matter Of Pride: A Deep Dive Into The Development Of The Movement In The Philippines

How will SOGIE Equality Bill Protect The LGBTQIA+? 

The SOGIE Equality Bill recognises the fundamental rights of every person regardless of sex, gender, age, class, status, disability, religion, and political beliefs. This means that the law protects members of the LGBTQIA+ from discrimination and marginalisation. 

Without marginalisation, everyone will have an equal opportunity and access to healthcare, housing, public services, education, employment and licensure. 

Hate crimes and harassment are also covered by the bill. With SOGIE Equality present, those who commit discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ will be fined PHP100,000 but not more than PHP500,000, or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years or both, depending on the decision of the court

Read more: Pride Month: Check Out PelikuLAYA, An LGBTQIA+ Film Festival 

Is This Law Exclusive To The Members Of LGBTQIA+?

No. Everyone has a preferred gender and sexual orientation, this means that people who identify themselves as heterosexual will be provided with the same rights and protections under the law.

Is This Law Harmful To The Christian Community?

Contrary to popular belief, none of the bill's provisions is written to attack any church or religious group. In fact, there had been cases where religious leaders are quoted backing SOGIE Equality. 

Bishop Solito Toquiero from the National Council of the Churches Philippines said the institution gives its support to the proposed law despite backlash from some religious groups. "The LGBTQIA+ have long been discriminated [against], that is why this bill has to be passed. The bill gives freedom and importance to the community," he said

Sister Mary John Mananzan from St. Scholastica's College has also expressed her support saying that the bill would not grant special privileges to the members of the LGBTQIA+. "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.

Where is SOGIE Equality Bill Now?

Several government officials still deem SOGIE Equality questionable. In May 2019, it became the longest-running bill under the Senate interpellation period in the Philippines. According to its supporters, the prolonged process was intended by dissenters to scrap the proposed law. 

In December 2020, Hontiveros reintroduced the proposed law in the 18th Congress after it was turned down in previous sessions. 

To help pass the bill, we must reach out and engage ourselves in conversations relevant to the LGBTQIA+ community. The modern age should not be a time where LGBTQIA+ rights are trampled and ignored. Pride is a protest and a good ally would echo the calls of the minority.


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