A gay pastor who has performed dozens of same-sex marriage ceremonies across the Philippines said in an interview with Gay Star News on Sunday that Filipinos are ready for gay marriage.
‘I performed a lesbian wedding in a province in September, and usually provinces are very conservative, but the whole community was there celebrating, even the town mayor!’ said Reverend Ceejay Agbayani of LGBTS Christian Church in Quezon City, Metro Manila (the ’S’ is for ‘straight’).
‘Philippine society is ready for same-sex marriage. The only institution that is not ready is the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines [CBCP]. And the government are not supportive because they are afraid of the CBCP.’
The Catholic church has such a strong grip on the politics of the Philippines that divorce is still illegal, as is abortion. So it is unlikely same-sex marriage will be legalized anytime soon.
But Reverend Agbayani said that if lawmakers manage to pass the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, that is currently being debated in parliament, it will send a sign that the Catholic church is losing its grip on Philippines’ politics.
‘I think the RH Bill will pave the way for divorce and same-sex marriage in the Philippines,’ he said.
The RH Bill would supply free contraceptives in the country with the highest teenage pregnancy rate in south-east Asia. President Benigno Aquino supports it, as do 65-70% of the population, but it’s now up to congress to pass it, if they can resist pressure from priests urging them to reject it.
The RH Bill was back in the Senate this week, with opponents pressing a long list of modifications and resorting to 'every parliamentary manoeuvre… preventing the house from tackling it again,' The Philippine Star reports.
A same-sex marriage bill has not yet been filed in the Phillipine parliament, but there have been (failed) attempts to pass bills banning same-sex marriage and marriages with transgender people.
Reverend Agbayani, whose childhood dream of becoming a priest was realised when he met people from Metropolitan Community Church - an American LGBT-inclusive church, is planning a mass wedding for same-sex and straight couples on 8 June 2013.
‘I hope and pray that it will be a big event,’ he said. ‘The Bible is not about hate. It’s about love and love alone.’