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Philippines' anti-gay discrimination bill hurdles committee level

Measure is passed despite opposition from lawmakers who fear the bill will pave the way for gay marriage

Philippines' anti-gay discrimination bill hurdles committee level

A bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity has hurdled the committee level at the Philippine House of Representatives.

The committee on women and gender equality Tuesday (10 February) voted 10 to 2 in favor of the bill authored by Dinagat Islands Rep Kaka Bag-ao.

‘This is not only a triumph for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, but for all Filipinos,’ she said in a statement.

‘The Anti-Discrimination Bill will protect the rights of each and every citizen regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.’

Among the discriminatory practices prohibited under the measure include bias against employees, refusal to admit a person in an institution, denial of access to health services and harassment by law enforcers, all due to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Akbayan party-list Rep Ibarra Gutierrez shot down accusations that the Anti-Discrimination Bill will pave the way for the legalization of gay marriage.

Lawmakers opposed to the measure cited Section 4(e) as intended to legalize same-sex marriage. The provision states that among the prohibited acts of discrimination are those that ‘deny an application for or revoke a professional or other kind of license, clearance certification or any other document issued by the government due to the applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity.’

In a statement released after the bill was approved, Gutierrez said: ‘There were concerns that this provision would open doors for members of the LGBT community to a same-sex union. To clarify, the provision solely prevents government agencies from denying individuals to secure ordinary licenses such as driver’s license and other certifications, based on sexual orientation and gender identity.’

Gutierrez, a lawyer, said legalizing same-sex marriage is a ‘different fight altogether’ that would go beyond the Anti-Discrimination Bill and amending the Family Code of the Philippines, which defines marriage as a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman.’

Bag-ao said nothing in the measure ‘grants recognition to same-sex marriage.’

‘[The critics] must read it carefully,’ she said, adding that the bill does not ask for special rights for people of a certain gender, but seeks to protect citizens’ basic rights.

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