MANILA, Philippines – Several church groups appeared to be split on opposing the SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) equality bill, with some citing church teachings as basis for protecting LGBTQ+ rights.
At the 3rd hearing of the Anti-Discrimination bill or the SOGIE Equality bill, various religious groups against the bill raised concerns about religious freedom, the readiness of the country for such a liberal law, and its necessity.
Religious group Coalition of Concerned Families of the Philippines lawyer Lyndon Caña, who started his statement with a disclaimer that they don't hate the LGBTQ+, pointed out that legislating an anti-discrimination law on the basis of SOGIE is "one-sided."
"There is exclusion or non-mention of the other sector immediately affected by the bill. It is immediately a one-sided bill which is supposed to be anti-discrimination," he said.
Caña noted that one's gender identity is a mere "feeling" and not a fact. (READ: Sotto: 'If you are a man, you will never be a woman')
Cesar Buendia, a proclaimed "reformed homosexual changed by the grace of Jesus Christ," said that their group had experienced the same forms of discrimination that the LGBTQ+ endure, but they "nevertheless stand firmly against the SOGIE bill."
"One's gender identity is assigned by its sexual desires. It is mainly deception or the product of the mind. It is not based on objective, observable, and verifiable facts," he said.
Buendia called the bill "dangerous." He likened it to imposing decisions that a person is 21 years old even if he is only 12.
"It is excessively discriminatory against the majority of Filipinos who believe that there are only two sexes," Buendia said.
Meanwhile, Kata Inocencio of the Christian Broadcasting Network Asia that runs 700 Club Asia, said that their group's concern is that the bill will "curtail" their freedom of expression and religion.
Ansel Beluso of Pro-life Philippines said that there is "no gay gene" to justify the passage of the law.
For Intercessors for the Philippines, Obed dela Cruz pointed out during the hearing that there are enough laws to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community anyway.
Dela Cruz said: "If ever a court or a public officer will refuse to apply this law to the LGBTQ+, [then] let that public officer be [held] liable."
'It's about love'
Koko Alviar of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, or the Aglipayan Church, blasted "anti-LGBTQ+" Christians who oppose the bill for denying the community its secular rights.
He called the curtailing of religious freedom argument "preposterous."
"It is used in the wrong spirit because freedom of religion [means] that individuals will not be force-fed belief systems and that we are free to hold beliefs…But many people living by their Christian beliefs have harmed the LGBT community or have provoked them," said Alviar, a gay man.
Alviar added that his faith teaches him to "exist in a community of love."
"How do you love the sinner when you are refusing to give them secular rights – universal rights to jobs, education, health care – based on their dissonance on your expectations?" Alviar said.
Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
At the hearing, St Scholastica's College Sister Mary John Mananzan read a joint statement with the Ateneo de Manila University and Miriam College as "Catholics for Equality."
The group, she said, supports the measure "in the spirit of Catholic faith and the diverse faiths of Filipino people."
"While we recognize the diverse forms of marginalization that people may experience, the SOGIE Equality bill regonizes the stigma against the people whose SOGIE makes them the target of hate, harassment, and violence," Mananzan said.
The Union Theological Seminary, a Protestant seminary in the Philippines, also joined the other Christian denominations which believe that the measure does not in any way infringe on religious freedom.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, the chairperson of the Senate panel hearing the SOGIE bill, reiterated that the SOGIE Equality bill is meant to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
She said that the measure does not discriminate against straight people, as each individual has his or her own SOGIE.
Hontiveros said that the bill seeks to provide "protections against discrimination to all and especially at this point in time the LGBT+ community who historically suffer the greatest amount of discrimination."
Earlier, Hontiveros said that the aim of the bill is to create a magna carta for the LGBTQ+ community, just like the magna carta for women.
Despite the good intentions of the law, the measure faces challenges in the upper chamber, with Senate President Vicente Sotto III saying that the majority senators are not inclined to support it.
Read related stories from the SOGIE Equality bill hearing: