CA Justice Bato supports same-sex marriage in SC application

MANILA, Philippines – Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Ramon Bato Jr expressed support for same-sex marriage and said that to block marriage equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGTBQ) community would be violating substantive due process.

This is a rare sentiment at least in the interviews currently being done by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for an associate justice position at the Supreme Court (SC).

"By denying homosexuals the right to choose their partner, you'll be discriminating [against] them and that is a violation also of substantive due process," Bato told the JBC on Tuesday, June 25.

The petition filed by lawyer Jesus Falcis, which cites the equal protection clause as legal basis for same-sex marriage, has been a prominent question in the two days so far of JBC interviews for the vacancy that will be created by the impending retirement of Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo. (READ: SC applicant rejects same-sex marriage, says LGBTQIA 'not minority')

Bato also cited the equal protection clause for his support of same-sex marriage.

"Under the equal protection of law, all persons should be treated like both as to the privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. To me there is no valid distinction between heterosexuals and homosexuals when it comes to marriage," said Bato.

"Procreation is not the only purpose of marriage, it is not the be all and end all of a relationship," he added, referring to the procreation argument which is largely cited by those who oppose same-sex marriage.

Bato has been the most categorical in terms of supporting same-sex marriage. But aside from Bato, two other CA justices who were interviewed on Tuesday expressed a bit of openness to same-sex marriage, which, no matter how hesitant, is still a more liberal view than the mostly conservative sentiments of many applicants.

The SC itself is criticized for being "unready" to tackle marriage equality due to religious beliefs. (READ: SC's De Castro: Same-sex marriage will complicate gender specific laws)

Openness

CA Associate Justice Ramon Cruz said he will go by the "legal and historical landscape."

"Who would have ever thought that women would be allowed to vote, who would have ever thought that people in Mindanao would be able to govern, who would have thought that indigenous people would be given the right to govern their land? These are matters that fall within the domain of equal protection clause," Cruz said.

However, Cruz made a disclaimer that while his sentiments are within "a scope that counts in favor of same-sex marriage, I am not saying at this time that I am in favor of it."

CA Associate Justice Oscar Badelles, meanwhile, said: "There is nothing in the Constitution that mentions it, so it's not prohibited neither is it encouraged."

Badelles cited the United States Supreme Court landmark decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

"But that is the United States. We do not know what will come up in the next few years, your honor, it might involve transgenders who might be able to procreate later on. We don't know...how fast science and technology will progress," said Badelles.

CA Associate Justices Apolinario Bruselas and Manuel Barrios, as well as Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang, all stuck to the conservative definition of marriage as being limited between a man and a woman only.

They all said that the constitutional framers intended for marriage to be that way.

"Although jurisprudence states that these constitutional deliberations are not controlling, when it comes to decision making by the Supreme Court, even so it is a guide for the Court to ascertain the intent of the framers of the Constitution," said Tang.

Bruselas said same-sex civil union might be more possible.

"As of now, my view is same-sex marriage is not attuned to the Constitution and there may be a way out, there can be a same-sex union, probably, not a marriage," said Bruselas.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said during oral arguments on same-sex marriage that same-sex civil union is constitutional based on the constitutional right to freedom of association. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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