Respect and equality shouldn't be too much to ask for
Almost anywhere in the world today, there are members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) community who suffer from discrimination and violence. 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 Congress proposed 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 bill's current version is 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.
How will SOGIE Equality Bill Protect The LGBTQIA+?
The SOGIE Equality Bill recognizes 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 marginalization.
Without marginalization, everyone will have an equal opportunity and access to healthcare, housing, public services, education, employment, and licensure.
The bill also covers hate crimes and harassment. 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.
Is This Law Exclusive To The Members Of LGBTQIA+?
No. Everyone has a preferred gender and sexual orientation; this means that people who identify 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 are written to attack any church or religious group. In fact, there have 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 June 2022, Hontiveros promised to have the bill revived by the 19th Congress. "I'm ready to get back to work. We will use this 19th Congress to carve the runway to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill at long last. We will use this as a fresh opportunity to renew and prioritize our fight for all sexualities and genders. Yes, we are with heterosexual cisgenders in our fight for our LGBTQIA+ siblings," she said.
"As the country faces the difficulties of navigating the ruins of a post-pandemic world, this is our chance to build something good and lasting. This is our opportunity to make our institutions right and fair," the Senator added.
*This article first came out in 2021 and is being updated from time to time.