By Ellson Quismorio
Be patient, unite.
This was Bataan first district Rep. Geraldine Roman’s message Sunday to fellow equality advocates and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as they await legislative developments on moves to institutionalize same-sex unions in the country.
“Let us remember that a bit of patience and humility won’t hurt. Keep in mind that we all have the same goal. And I believe in taking slow but sure steps as I steadfastly work towards that common goal,” said Roman, a vice chairperson of the House committee on women and gender equality, in a statement.
It can be recalled that Roman made headlines in 2016 as the first transgender woman elected to the Philippine legislature.
The following year, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez vowed to push for a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage. Later, he clarified that civil partnership of couples of the same sex was his goal.
In January, the outspoken House leader declared that the measure was a top priority, even likening it to the ongoing Charter Change (Cha-Cha) efforts.
“The time has come for us to unite as a community. We have gained so much ground. Let us not put all this to waste by divisive statements. We can achieve more, if we are united. We can achieve more if we work as one,” appealed Roman, who was among those personally consulted by Alvarez in connection with his civil partnership bill or House Bill (HB) 6595.
Civil partnership over marriage
In the same statement, Roman acknowledged that the Philippines and Congress for that was as yet not ready for same-sex marriage. She said this makes civil partnership the more viable option.
“To say that the Philippines and Congress are already ready for same-sex marriage would simply be dishonest. For us to actually effect changes in our country, we have to keep our two feet on the ground and face the reality that civil partnership has greater chances of being approved in Congress,” she said.
“Same-sex marriage and civil partnership have different names but they give us practically the same rights and obligations as any legally recognized relationship,” Roman pointed out.
In effect, Roman is telling her equality advocates to choose their battles.
“Should we fight for something that will never win at this point in time? Or should we lobby for something that will give us practically the same rights and obligations and that has more certainty of being passed into law? A dose of realism will definitely guide us in choosing the right path.”
She also described her role as a legislator and the dynamics of the chamber when it comes to contentious issues like same-sex marriage or unions.
“People seem to ignore the fact that I am not an activist with an all-or-nothing approach towards issues. Let us not forget that I am a legislator who has to deal with real-life politicians who get turned off by radical, confrontational and intransigent attitudes,” she said.