By Joe Torres
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to changing Philippine law to allow same-sex marriage, a turnaround from an earlier view in which he said it “would not work” for Filipinos because “we’re Catholics.”
Speaking before a gathering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Davao on Dec. 17, the president said he was for same-sex marriage after all because it was “the trend of modern times.”
“If that will add to your happiness, I am for it,” he told the gathering. “Why impose a morality that is no longer working and almost passe,” added the president in an apparent reference to traditional teachings of the church.
“I am with you,” said Duterte. He even asked the gathering to nominate “the brightest” among themselves, someone “who is honest [and] hardworking” whom he could appoint to a government post.
“I want same-sex marriage. The problem is we’ll have to change the law,” said the president, adding that the law dictates that marriage is “a union between a man and a woman.”
“But we can change the law,” he said to loud applause.
Philippine Catholic and Evangelical church leaders immediately criticized the president’s pronouncement, saying that the “marriage” of people of the same sex in a church “is impossible”.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon warned in an interview that, “the trivialization of marriage is one of the fundamental reasons behind the breakdown of … society.”
He said the main purpose of marriage “is the procreation of children and the building of a loving family, the basic unit of human society and the church.”
The prelate said the government should protect families “as ordained by God and the church.”
Bishop Noel Pantoja of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches said the recognition of same-sex unions is a “serious error” that can harm “not only the Christian faith but also the morality and very destiny of our nation.”
He said that although “our Lord calls us to love the [LGBT] community,” passing a law allowing same-sex unions “will become a source of unwelcome tension in our nation.”
“It will only marginalize religion and thus cause the very discrimination it seeks to avoid,” said Bishop Pantoja, adding that same-sex unions directly contradicts the teaching of Islam and Christianity that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
In March, Duterte said he was opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage because the country’s Civil Code prohibits it. “That’s the law in the Philippines,” said the president.
Even the president’s allies in Congress said passing a law to allow same-sex civil unions is not among Duterte’s priority measures.
Church leaders welcomed the president’s earlier statement, saying that they are grateful for his respecting the “sanctity of marriage.”
The United States, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Ireland, and Australia have passed legislation ensuring marriage equality.