Supreme Court junks same-sex marriage case on technicalities

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) unanimously voted to dismiss on account of a technicality what was touted as a historic petition to allow same-sex marriage in the Philippines.

"The Court's decision dismissed Falcis' petition on account of his lack of standing, violating the principle of hierarchy of courts, and failing to raise an actual, justiciable controversy," SC's spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said in a news conference on Tuesday, September 3.

Falcis, a young and openly gay lawyer, filed the petition against the Civil Registrar General, the public official in the position to deny a marriage license to gay couples. But Falcis himself was not seeking marriage.

Falcis later got gay couple Ceejay Agbayani and Marlon Felipe as intervenors in the petition. Agbayani and Felipe want to get married and are in fact married under Agbayani's LGBT Chirstian Church. Their marriage is not recognized by the State.

"(The Court) clarified that it is only through the existence of actual facts and real adversarial presentations that this Court can fully weigh the implications and consequences of its pronouncements," Hosaka said.

Even though it is dismissing the case on technicalities, the Supreme Court made a crucial pronouncement that the Constitution does not explicitly ban same-sex marriage.

"From its plain text, the Constitution does not define, or restrict, marriage on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression," Hosaka said, quoting the decision.

Hierarchy of courts

Justices also pointed out during oral arguments the petition's violation of the hierarchy of courts, saying that the landmark US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage was a culmination of decades of fighting it out in the lower courts.

Falcis was grilled on procedural flaws during oral arguments, although Constitutional Law professor Dan Gatmaytan said the procedural issues could be cured if the Supreme Court wanted to.

“And that's why my conclusion is that [the justices] were trying to find a reason not to decide the case,” Gatmaytan said in an earlier interview.

The Supreme Court also held Falcis and his co-counsels Darwin Angeles, Keisha Trina Guangko, and Cristopher Ryan Maranan liable for indirect contempt.

"To forget the bare rudiments of court procedure and decorum – or worse, to purport to know them, but really, only to exploit them by way of propaganda – and then, to jump headlong into the taxing endeavor of constitutional litigation is a contemptuous betrayal of the high standards of the legal profession," Hosaka said, quoting the en banc.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the ponente, said the issue of same-sex partnerships "may, for now, be a matter that should be addressed to Congress."

"The Court, through the ponente, recognized the protracted history of discrimination and marginalization faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and other gender and sexual minorities (LGBTQI+) community, along with their still ongoing struggle for equality," Hosaka said. – 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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