Same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriage: What's the difference?

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Karlo Salazar and Kenji Nuñez have been together for almost 10 years and they plan to stay together 'till death do they part.

The couple is planning to tie the knot in 2018 in California or in New Zealand, where same-sex marriage is legal. But they hope that, someday, they can also do it in the Philippines.

"It's very critical, it's very important for us to be recognized as equals in our society," said Salazar.

But Nuñez said they want a legal union, not only for the ceremony, but to protect themselves legally. They want to enjoy the same legal rights that heterosexual Filipino couples are able to enjoy.

"Heterosexual couples, when they grow old together, they have access to certain rights such as access to health information, visitation rights in case one of us gets ill," he said.

Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman clarified that what House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is pushing for is same-sex civil union and not same-sex marriage, contrary to what the House Speaker said on Monday.

Roman, the first transgender politician elected as member of the Lower House, said on Tuesday that all she and Alvarez want are civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples, not the religious aspect of marriage.

"There are some sectors of the society who want an exclusive hold of the word 'marriage.' For them, marriage has a religious connotation. Then let them keep it. What we want are civil rights, human rights, and equality," said Roman.

Roman said that in a civil union, same-sex couples will more or less get the same benefits as what heterosexual couples get in a civil marriage, particularly in terms of property inheritance, deciding the fate of one's partner and possible adoption rights.

"The sky will not fall if a civil union bill is passed. Hindi babagsak ang ekonomiya ng Pilipinas dahil may mga same-sex couples na finally na-recognize ang kanilang karapatan [the economy will not plummet because the state recognizes the rights of the same-sex couples]," she said.

But some congressmen were also quick to voice out their opposition.

Rep. Toby Tiangco argued that there is a limitation to happiness, especially if it is against the law.

"Kung happiness, yung nagma-marijuana, happy din iyon. Bakit natin pinagbabawal? Iyong konteksto ng happiness, may limitasyon iyon hindi naman pwede basta happy ka. Kung happy ka nga, bawal naman," he said.

Rep. Bingbong Crisologo said that the Bible clearly states that same-sex marriage is forbiden.

"I've been an advocate of the word of God and clearly in the Bible, it forbids the same sex marriage," he said.

Archdiocese of Manila Fr. Jerome Secillano said in a statement that introducing same-sex unions in the Philippines means subscribing to an ideology that is "alien to Filipino psyche."

Although the Church respects and supports the LGBT community and their rights, Fr. Secillano also urged legislators to enact laws that will be for the good of all.

"Any attempt to destroy our country's cultural, traditional and moral foundations through legislations should be resisted," he said. 

But Roman maintained there should be separation between church and state.

As for Kenji and Karlo, the recognition of rights should be equal among individuals.

"We feel that we are entitled, as human beings, with the same rights as any person has access to in this country, that includes getting married," said Nuñez.