Seares: Civil union not marriage? ‘Hala oy’

BATAAN Rep. Geraldine Roman must have dropped already the pretense that civil union of persons of the same sex is not marriage.

After Roman, a transgender woman, “clarified” the statement of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, he filed days later, on Oct. 10, House Bill #6595, “An Act to Recognize the Civil Partnerships of Couples Providing for their Rights and Obligations.”

Major features

No mention of “marriage” in the title and most of the parts of the bill but it’s marriage of same-sex couples all right. The civil partnership is features and wrapping but it has the substance of marriage. Consider:

■ It requires a license and a certificate, just like marriage, with the rules of the Civil Code applied for their issuance;

■ It provides for a ceremony with the civil registrar or any other administering officer but also allows a priest or his equivalent to officiate;

■ It confers “all benefits and protections granted to spouses in a marriage” and the “same legal duties and obligation as married spouses.”

Same rights, duties

Look again: Laws on marital relations govern the union. Rights of succession to properties are the same as for married couples. Each has insurable interest in the other (SSS, GSIS, health insurance) and can enjoy tax benefits and labor privileges due to spouses. They can even adopt children, as married people can. And yes, the equivalent of a pre-nup agreement although the bill carefully avoids the word “nuptial” and uses “civil partnership” there and elsewhere in the bill.

It looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, squawks like a duck and they call it a “maya”? As south Cebu folk say in disbelief and amazement, “Hala oy.”

It’s a marriage

Call it a civil union or a civil partnership but it’s a marriage. It has all the elements of a marriage, even requirements and disqualifications. They apply marriage provisions of the Family Code to the civil union. Ah, except one about the applicant couple “sharing the same domicile” for two uninterrupted years.

We already have civil marriage. Why the need for this civil union under the bill proposed by Alvarez and a group of House members? Because the existing law requires that the marriage shall be between a man and a woman. Not a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, or any other pairing among LGBTs.

Valid purpose

The authors have a valid, even noble purpose: the equal protection clause of the Constitution. No citizen shall be denied rights given other citizens by reason of race, color, gender or sexual orientation.

LGBTs are citizens too. They too want to get married but the Family Code bars it. Amend the law then by explicitly striking down the disqualification, not present the proposal under disguise.

The Catholic Church is expected to play its role of “protecting souls” of its flock as it has done on the reproductive health bill and return of the death penalty.

Church influence

That’s obviously the reason for packaging the bill as a civil partnership. But if the lawmakers believe the church influence has diminished, particularly on election results; if they think they control the nation’s majority, then let the people express its will, through Congress and eventually the ballot.

An open debate on contentious issues will help inform the nation.

Starting with HB #6595, which may be more aptly titled “An Act to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages, Providing for the Rights and Obligations of Spouses.”
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