Same sex marriage petitioner challenges Duterte: Tell SolGen to support us

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — The petitioner behind same sex marriage raised a challenge for President Rodrigo Duterte over the government's position in a case pending at the Supreme Court.

Atty. Jesus Falcis says if Duterte is a true ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community, then he has to give the word to Solicitor General Jose Calida, who is disputing same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court.

"My challenge to President Duterte is, if he really supports same sex marriage... He just has to tell Calida, file a memorandum in favor of same sex marriage," Falcis told CNN Philippines' The Source. "Maybe the case will win and you don't need to change the law anymore."

Falcis said that they could even speak "lawyer to lawyer" and Duterte is free to get his number and meet about the issue.

This comes after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Falcis' petition, filed in 2015, which seeks to declare Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code unconstitutional. Falcis argues that while these provisions define marriages as between couples from the opposite sex, the Constitution does not make that limitation.

In December, Duterte expressed support for same sex marriage — a turnaround from a previous position.

"Ako, gusto ko [I am for] same sex marriage," Duterte said. "Ang problema [The problem is], we have to change the law. But we can change the law."

Falcis welcomed Duterte's remarks, but noted that the President and Calida's statements seemed to conflict.

Calida, who represents the government and its officers in court proceedings, argued before the Supreme Court that the Family Code does not breach the Constitution.

"The present definition of marriage under the family code is but a reflection of the concept of marriage contemplated under the constitution," Calida said. "Until the constitution is changed, they have no cause to complain."

Falcis said that his camp is expected to submit a memorandum within 30 days from when the oral arguments were heard last June 18.

"After July 26, it could take as short as one week or as long as years. It depends on the Supreme Court," he said.

Whatever the result, Falcis said he would respect the court decision.

But if they lose, gay couples will still have to pay extra to get something akin to marriage.

"What gay people, trans people have to do is to hire the best lawyers out there... to make contracts for them, to try to approximate what marriage can give," said Falcis. "But they still won't be able to access full rights under marriage."

"If the petition wins, then they can now go to the civil registrar to apply for marriage licenses and be legally married," he added.

Fashion designer Francis Libiran and his partner, businessman Christian Mark Jacobs, are among couples backing the petition. As Jacobs is American, the two are set to be legally wed abroad later this year. However, they still want to be legally recognized in the Philippines.

Jacobs painted the worst case scenario, which he says "leads me to the conclusion that we have to be legally married."

"What if one of us were in the hospital sick and the other won't be allowed to be on the bedside of the person that we love, the person that you consider to be your husband?" said Jacobs. "As LGBT, there are a lot of rights that perhaps everyday people don't think about, and all we're looking for is equality. We're not asking for anything more than what majority of the population has the rights to."

The couple welcomed the Supreme Court hearing, which came as a surprise three years after it was originally filed.

The petition was a different route from where LGBTQ rights are usually fought in Congress. An anti-discrimination bill is still working its way through Senate, and a proposal recognizing civil unions regardless of gender is still languishing in the House of Representatives.

When asked to respond to criticism that the Philippines wasn't ready for same-sex marriage yet, Falcis said: "The question of right time... should be asked to the LGBT people."

"A lot of them are marrying informally, and a lot of them are growing old. They're feeling insecure with their property rights, rights to their partner, because it's not legal," he said.

Falcis pointed out a high profile couple, singer Ice Seguerra and actress and Film Development Council Chair Liza Diño, were also married. He added that the rest of society need not be ready for these partnerships because they were not affected.

"When gay [and] trans people marry, everybody's lives will go on as well," said Falcis. "We are ready for it. The LGBT community is ready for it. When it comes to fundamental rights, every time is the right time."

Watch the full episode of The Source here.