Bill seeking to provide equal rights to LGBT members still faces rough sailing in Senate

Published June 8, 2018, 4:07 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Vanne Terrazola

The bill seeking to provide equal rights to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community continues to face rough sailing in the Senate as some senators remain cold to its passage.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

While maintaining his support for the measure, Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri cannot assure the approval of the bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) anytime soon.

“I’m in support of that measure, unfortunately, the Senate President has a different view on the matter so I have to discuss this with the Senate President. And some of our colleagues have questions that they want to [ex]pound,” Zubiri said when asked about the measure in a press briefing.

The House of Representatives had approved on third and final reading its version of the SOGIE bill in September, prompting appeals for the Upper Chamber to pass their version of the measure.

But the Senate Bill 1271 filed by Sen. Riza Hontiveros has been languishing in the Senate plenary for more than one year. Senators have yet to interpellate on the measure before its approval on second reading.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, a staunch Catholic, earlier expressed his sentiment on the bill. He, together with some senators, believes that its passage will pave the way for the legalization of the same-sex marriage in the country, yet another issue thumbed down by religious groups.

When he was still the majority leader, Sotto had dismissed chances for its passage in the 17th Congress. Now he is Senate chief, Sotto said he is open to considering opposing sides.

“As Senate President, we have to consider both sides. Let’s see how it goes after the interpellations,” Sotto said in a text message today.

Asked anew if it can be passed, Sotto said: “Pwede (Maybe). If the controversial provisions are settled.”

‘Controversial provisions’

Sotto today said Sotto said the SOGIE bill “has a good chance” of approval in Senate “if it is confined to nondiscrimination in employment, treatment in society and noncontroversial provisions.”

For Sotto, controversial provisions include the removal of dress codes and allowing members of the LGBT community to dress based on their SOGIE. He also questioned the use of restrooms on the basis of SOGIE.

Sotto said he also opposes the “encroachment into religious and academic practices,” although not enumerating what practice in churches or educational institutions should not be violated.

While SB 1271 does not specify the points raised by Sotto, it includes definitions that may be covered by the prohibition on discriminatory practices against the LGBT.

For example, it referred to gender identity as the “personal sense of identity as characterized, among others, by manner of clothing, inclination, and behavior in relation to masculine of feminine convention. A person may have a male or a female identity with the psychological characteristics of the opposite sex.”

The bill included in the discriminatory practices the refusal and expulsion of a person from any educational or training institution on the basis of SOGIE.

It also prohibits the denial of “a person, access to or the use of establishments, facilities, utilities or services, including housing, open to the public on the basis of SOGIE.

Sotto said he will discuss the measure with his colleagues.

Zubiri, on the other hand, maintained his sympathy for the LGBT community.

“As far as I’m concerned and I can only speak for myself, it has my support,” he said.

Pending his discussion with Sotto, Zubiri vowed to calendar the SOGIE bill for plenary debates.

“Of course it will still be calendared, and hopefully our colleagues can cooperate and participate,” he said.