Padilla filed Senate Bill No. 449, which he called the Civil Unions Act, to institutionalize civil partnerships for same-sex couples, including in the bill anti-discrimination protections for people in such unions.
In an explanatory note for his bill, the senator noted that same-sex marriage or civil unions had been legalized in 31 countries and territories.
Referring to other Asian nations, he cited Taiwan for becoming the first territory in the region to enact marriage equality in 2019, and Japan for six cities that are now issuing partnership certificates to same-sex couples to enjoy some of the rights and benefits of marriage.
Padilla lamented that the Philippines, however, still lacks legislative measures to afford the same rights and privileges for same-sex couples that are enjoyed by different-sex couples.
“This proposed measure therefore seeks to recognize the civil union between two (2) persons of the same or opposite sex to be able to enjoy the rights, protection, and privileges afforded in this bill,” he said.
“It is high time that the Philippines provides equal rights and recognition for couples of the same sex with no prejudice as to sexual relationships are protected and recognized and given access to basic social protection and security,” Padilla continued.
“Providing equal rights and privileges for same-sex couples will in no way diminish or trample on the rights granted to married couples,” he added.
Proposed protections against discrimination
Besides providing for the recognition and registration of civil unions by the state, the bill also included sections to prevent discrimination towards people in civil partnerships.
The bill has clauses to criminalize employers and labor organizations for discriminatory employment practices towards people in civil unions.
The bill also laid out penalties for officials who refuse to issue civil union licenses or certificates, or anyone who denies rights and benefits entitled to civil union couples.
Proposed punishments for discrimination include a fine of between P500,000 and P1 million, or imprisonment of ten years.
Attitudes towards sexuality remain conservative in the Philippines, whose population is largely Catholic. An Anti-Discrimination Bill, which seeks to prevent discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression (SOGIE), has been filed many times in Congress since 2000, but has not been passed by lawmakers.
Various cities and local governments have enacted ordinances in efforts to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, but the majority of Filipinos live in jurisdictions that lack any official protection from SOGIE-based discrimination.
Pride Month celebrations returned to the streets in the Philippines this June after being paused for two years, as LGBTQ groups were able to meet and gather in person once more as lockdown restrictions were eased.
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