Same-sex marriage won't be included in anti-discrimination bill, lawmakers assured

BUHAY Party-list Representative Jose "Lito" Atienza on Tuesday, May 11, sought to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage in the anti-discrimination bill being crafted in the House of Representatives.

Buhay Party-list Representative Jose "Lito" Atienza (Facebook)

At the hearing of the House Committee on Human Rights on the proposed "Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill", Atienza inquired if the bill would "surreptitiously" allow same-sex marriage in the Philippines.

The panel was then discussing the denial of rights to employment as an act of discrimination to be prohibited and penalized if the bill is passed signed into law.

Under this provision, it shall be prohibited to "deny an application for or revoke a professional license issued by the government" on the basis of the protected attributes enumerated in the bill, which includes sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

"Whether the whole portion is talking about employment or not, the issue that had been raised earlier and still now persisting in the minds of the people, is that the issue of licensing includes marriage licensing," Atienza said, even as his colleagues pointed out that the section was clear that only professional licenses were covered in the bill.

He wanted to include the phrase "except a marriage license" to ensure that same-sex marriage will not be carried in the bill, raising the concern that "brilliant lawyers" can use the provision to defend the union of same-sex couples in court.

"We are preparing a law that we expect to last forever, and we are setting guidelines so that people in the future will not be misguided in using this phrase to again resuscitate or revive the issue of same-sex marriage as being legalized by any law coming from us," he added.

"Because mothers, women, wives can insist 'we are professionals, and our license is a professional license'. To prevent that, let's clarify already in this discussion the anticipated revival of the issue," he insisted.

"We should be careful because this could be misinterpreted or purposely misinterpreted by some people who are also extremist in their thinking that the right to marriage or non-marriage is inviolable," Atienza later said.

Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, in response, assured Atienza that the bill will not push the legalization of same-sex marriage as it covers discrimination not only against sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, but also discrimination based on other attributes.

"I would like to assure our dear Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza that this does not pertain to marriage license, in fact, this only pertains to professional licenses," said Roman, the country's first transgender congresswoman and co-author of the bill.

While she did not oppose Atienza's proposal, Roman didn't think it would be proper to include the exemption of marriage licenses in provision meant for profession licenses and employment.

Committee chairman and Quezon City 4th District Rep. Jesus "Bong" Suntay suggested to instead insert the phrase "used for employment" to specify that licenses relating to employment will be covered in the bill.

Atienza, Roman and stakeholders agreed with the proposal.

The human rights panel has suspended deliberations on the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill.