Philippines: Activists Demand Anti-Discrimination Ordinance after Baguio City Proposes Prohibition of Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups in Baguio City headed by the Progressive Organization of Gays in Metro Baguio (ProGay Metro Baguio) have denounced a proposal to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies from taking place in the city. Activists called on Mayor Mauricio Domogan to stop violating the human rights of LGBT residents and instead pass an anti-discrimination ordinance to protect the residents from violence and homophobia. The LGBT groups are also calling on the leaders of Christian churches to respect the human rights of LGBT people and to stop imposing their religious positions in local laws. ProGay Metro Baguio was joined by Lesbian for National Democracy (LESBOND), Thunderbirds Association of the Cordillera and Suburbs (TACSI) and other members of the Baguio Pride Network (BPN).

These demands came in response to reports that the Baguio City government was planning to prosecute eight couples who participated in a same-sex mass wedding as part of the Third LGBT Baguio Pride celebration—a move initiated by Philian Weygan, a Baguio city councilor who proposed a resolution “denouncing and prohibiting the conduct of same-sex marriage or ceremonies or same-sex unions in the city of Baguio.”

On June 25, 2011, the mass same-sex wedding performed by the Baguio City Metropolitan Christian Church was nationally televised and widely publicized in newspapers across the country. Interviews with the eight couples and footage of the wedding ceremony drew homophobic reactions from the city government of Baguio and from Christian churches throughout the Philippines. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) tagged the weddings as an insult to the Roman Catholic Church [1].

“People who engage in same-sex weddings are mentally ill and abnormal,” said Bishop of Baguio, Carlito Cenzon [2]. Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said the pastors who officiated the same-sex wedding should be prosecuted and their licenses revoked. He added,“Napangitan ako, kadiri…laban ito sa salita ng Diyos” (“I find it ugly, it’s disgusting…this is against the word of God”) [3].

Condemnation of the same-sex weddings came not only from the Church but also from Baguio City Council members. Richard Cariño, Baguio City Councilor, proposed to declare the sixteen individuals who participated in the ceremonies as “persona non grata” or "unwelcome persons.” He stated, “a person can be determined as a ‘persona non grata’ if the person violates or obstructs the law, contradicts the principle and ordinances of the city, and if the action is oppressive or is seen as oppressive by other people. We have to investigate if the wedding that took place is oppressive to the people of Baguio city.” [4]

Outraged LGBT groups across the Philippines responded in solidarity with the LGBT couples in Baguio.
Bemz Benedito, chairperson of LADLAD LGBT Party captured the furor. She said, “We condemn in the strongest sense the unfair, discriminatory, arrogant and condescending statements of Bishop Teodoro Bacani and others in the Roman Catholic church. The bishops have propagated once again–hatred, bias, prejudice and fear toward LGBT Filipinos. We urge them to step back, as we draw the line between their hypocrisy and our rights. We also urge the Roman Catholic Church to clean their ranks from various scandals before trading their guns to us.” [5]

Cye Reyes of the Baguio Pride Network [6] said the actions and pronouncements of the Catholic Church and the Baguio City Council add to the already numerous problems of LGBT people such as hate crimes, discrimination, homophobia and physical violence.

As party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Philippines government is obligated to comply with Article 18—“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching,” and Article 26—“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion…”

Banning same-sex weddings also contravenes Article 3, Section 5 of the Philippines Constitution, which states, “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”

Jheza Guiloan, vice-chairperson of ProGay Baguio said, "We ask the City Council to make legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure no family may be subjected to discrimination on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender identity. Because we LGBT people in Baguio are hardworking taxpayers, we also deserve family-related social welfare and other public benefits as stated in the Yogyakarta Principles." [7]

Other LGBT activists point out that in May 2011 the Philippines was reelected for a three-year term to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which conducts the Universal Periodic Review of state parties’ human rights records. In this capacity, the Philippines has the opportunity "to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.”

A petition letter has been circulated by the Baguio ProGay Network, urging people to ask the Baguio City Council to abandon the resolution banning same sex unions and ceremonies in Baguio and instead protect the human rights people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

Contact Information:
William Villacampa – ProGay Metro Baguio
Mobile no.: +63.999.776.6223

Myke Sotero – MCC Metro Baguio