MANILA, Philippines -- Being gay is not a valid ground to have one's marriage annulled; hiding such a fact is.
The Supreme Court made this ruling as it reversed a decision by the Las Piñas City Regional Trial Court to annul a couple's 11-year marriage after the wife claimed her husband was a homosexual.
In a 21-page ruling dated August 28, the Court's 3rd Division said the lower court erred in declaring the marriage void from the start because it took into account solely the husband's alleged homosexuality per se without being presented with proof that he had concealed it from his wife.
In restoring the marriage of the couple (whose identities the Inquirer is withholding for the sake of their minor children), the Court said the lower court misinterpreted Article 46 of the Family Code of the Philippines that allows annulment when the consent of either party is obtained by fraud, such as concealment of homosexuality.
?Nowhere in the [RTC's] decision was it proven by preponderance of evidence that [the husband] was homosexual at the onset of his marriage and that he deliberately hid such a fact from his wife. It is the concealment that vitiates the consent of the innocent party [and] presupposes bad faith and intent to defraud the other party in giving consent to the marriage,? said the Supreme Court?s ruling, written by Justice Ruben Reyes.
Court records showed the wife sued for annulment, accusing her husband of being psychologically incapacitated to perform his marital obligations. The couple, both medical practitioners, were sweethearts for three years before getting married in 1989.
During the trial, the wife described her husband as a ?harsh disciplinarian, unreasonably meticulous, and easily angered," adding his alleged cruelty to their children was a cause of their fights. She also complained that he showed lavish affection to his mother and was dependent on the latter's decisions.
Further adding to her woes was his alleged homosexuality. She said she was suspicious about his ?peculiar closeness to male companions.? She also said she caught him manifesting affection to a male caller, found several pornographic homosexual materials in his possession, and saw him kissing another man on the lips.
When she confronted him, he denied everything. She decided to leave their conjugal home and took their children with her. He then stopped giving support to their children.
The wife presented in the trial a clinical psychologist who interviewed the husband and their children and reached the same conclusion that he was truly psychologically incapacitated.
The husband, for his part, denied all his wife's allegations, adding that their marriage was ?generally harmonious? so he was surprised by the suit.
He said he never maltreated their children. He added that he was close to his mother because she was already growing old and there was nothing wrong to return the love and affection of the one who reared and looked after him.
He claimed his wife?s jealousy drove him to avoid female friends but instead his wife used this to ?conjure? stories about his sexual preferences. He also denied kissing another man or owning homosexual pornographic magazines and videotapes.
He countered that the true cause of his wife's hostility was his decision to convert his lying-in clinic into a hospital that competed with the one owned by his wife's family.
The lower court judge, siding with the wife, declared the marriage null and void in 2005. The husband's share of the conjugal property was forfeited in favor his children, to whom he was also ordered to give monthly financial support.
The Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the ruling, saying the judge erroneously considered the public perception of the husband's sexual preference without corroboration of witnesses.
Also, the judge took cognizance of the husband's peculiarities and interpreted it against his sexuality.
?What [the wife] attempted to demonstrate were [her husband's] homosexual tendencies by citing overt acts generally predominant among homosexual individuals. She wanted to prove that the perceived homosexuality rendered [him] incapable of fulfilling essential marital obligations,? the Court ruled.
The high court said Article 46 of the Family Code clearly showed that concealment of homosexuality was among the circumstances constituting fraud for which a marriage may be annulled.
?Concealment in this case is not simply a blanket denial but one that is constitutive of fraud. It is this fundamental element that [the wife] failed to prove. The burden of proof to show the nullity of the marriage rests on [her]. Sadly, she failed to discharge this onus,? the high court said.
Unlike in the United States where homosexuality is a basis for divorce, the high court said that homosexuality is only a ground for legal separation in the Philippines.
?The Court is mindful of the constitutional policy to protect and strengthen the family as the basic autonomous social institution and marriage as the foundation of the family. The State and the public have vital interest in the maintenance and preservation of these social institutions against desecration by fabricated evidence. Thus, any doubt should be resolved in favor of the validity of marriage,? the high court said.
The Court also berated the husband's lawyer for filing a petition to annul judgment of the RTC before the Court of Appeals, instead of an ordinary appeal. When the appeals court denied the petition because of the wrong remedy, the husband elevated the case to the Supreme Court.
The Court said it found it ?prudent? to relax the rules and allowed the case to prosper by entertaining it as a certiorari petition, so that the parties may attain the ends of justice.