Philippines: Lawyer to enter politics to pursue LGBT+ rights

A gay lawyer from the Philippines said on Thursday he would pursue a career in politics to push for LGBT+ rights, after losing a legal battle to introduce same-sex marriage in the mainly Roman Catholic country.

Jesus Falcis in 2015 petitioned the country’s top court to rule as unconstitutional a law stating marriage can only happen between a man and a woman.

But the Supreme Court this week dismissed his petition on technical grounds, because he himself had not attempted to marry. The court did, however, recognise the “ongoing struggle for equality” among LGBT+ people.

Falcis, who also hosts a political radio show, said he had no immediate plans to pursue further legal action against the government, and instead would run as a candidate in local council elections to push for LGBT+ rights.

“[Losing the case] is a temporary setback,” the 33-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that the discrimination he faced growing up gay drove him to file the petition.

“Most countries that fought for marriage equality eventually achieved it but they have to fight a long game,” he said by phone from the capital Manila.

The LGBT+ community is largely tolerated in the Philippines, a country of 107 million, but like many other parts of Asia, conservative attitudes prevail when it comes to same-sex unions.

Taiwan is the only place in Asia where gay marriage is legal, after the island passed a law in May.

Falcis cited the example of Japan, where same-sex marriage remains illegal, but some municipalities have extended medical and housing benefits to gay couples.

Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has made conflicting statements about his support for same-sex unions, but he vowed in late 2017 that he would support gay marriage “if that is the trend of the modern times”.

Falcis said many of his gay friends have chosen to live abroad, where they can get married and enjoy protections.

“I don’t have a partner now but I do want to have a partner, I do want to settle down in my country,” said the lawyer.

“I cannot see myself living in another country, I will die here and I want to have the same rights.”

-Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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