QC council approves pro-LGBT ordinance
MANILA, Philippines — The rainbow flag has been raised in Quezon city.
In what has been touted as a pioneer legislation in Metro Manila, the Quezon City Council passed on second reading an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (Sogie) in the city.
Dubbed the “Gender-Fair City” Ordinance, the measure protects LGBT rights in the workplace, in schools, in accommodation and in accessing basic services.
The ordinance authored by first district Councilor Lena Marie “Mayen” Juico expands the 2003 Quezon City Ordinance No. 1309, which prohibited discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace.
It also takes off from Mayor Herbert Bautista’s office order in 2013, creating the Quezon City Pride Council (QCPC) to integrate the LGBT community in government programs. The Gender-Fair City ordinance tasks the QCPC as its oversight and implementing committee.
Juico, in her ordinance, noted the lack of a “state mechanism” to stem the “stigma, prejudice and discrimination” continually faced by the LGBT community.
“This stigma is manifested in actions such as bullying, teasing and harassment…[in] schools and [in] communities, in media portrayal of LGBT persons as frivolous, untrustworthy and even dangerous or predatory; [in] denying transgender Filipinos entry into commercial establishments; [in] pigeonholding LGBT Filipinos into particularly limited roles and occupations, or curtailing their rights to participate in the political sphere,” Juico said, in her ordinance.
Juico cited research conducted by the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch that of 141 documented cases of hate crimes from 1996 to 2011, 95 cases involved gay men, 26 involved transgendered people, 16 involved lesbians, and four involved bisexuals.
Juico’s ordinance not only prohibits penalizing people or denying them services because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, but it also bans verbal or non-verbal ridicule in the same discriminatory vein.
The ordinance also legislates affirmative acts for the cause—for instance, adding gender options for sexual orientation or genders in forms, putting up unisex lavatories in workplaces, conducting gender-sensitivity training, disseminating anti-discrimination materials in schools, workplaces and communities, and commemorating LGBT events in the city.
The ordinance also calls for the incorporation of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (Sogie) concerns under the function of the Violence Against Women and Children police desks, as well as the putting up of LGBT desks in hospitals.
The ordinance requires the allotment of funds for a widespread informational campaign on the anti-discrimination policy, for the setting up of a “discrimination databank,” and to provide legal representation and psychological counseling to victims of gender-related harassment.
Though the ordinance is still up for third reading before it gets enacted and submitted for Bautista’s signature, the QCPC believes the measure is “as good as passed,” with the final reading remaining a mere formality.
In an interview, QCPC member, Bishop Emerson Beriones, of the Orthodox Church, explained that getting this far was already a triumph for the ordinance.
“This is not the first in the Philippines, but the most comprehensive, the deepest, in protecting LGBT rights,” Beriones said.
Beriones said that before the ordinance was passed last Monday, it was subjected to council deliberations that took around eight hours, up to the late evening.
Beriones said it was “amazing” that the ordinance was able to hurdle “a big council—six districts, with eight councilors each, with different beliefs and principles.” Beriones said Quezon City has always been a “strong Catholic city,” which usually meant a more conservative stance on gender issues.
Beriones shared his personal advocacy of moving around other Churches “to talk about acceptance and fair treatment for the LGBT community.”
“How do we make them understand doctrines if they’re excluded from the Church? And in my personal opinion, what we straight people have, they should also have. What’s the difference?” the priest explained.
In a press statement, no less than Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, who presides over the city council, noted: “The LGBT community has been a significant partner in ensuring the success of Quezon City. While contributing on various arenas—politics, arts, business, sciences, education, among others—they have long been ignored, their rights unrecognized, and worse they are often discriminated against. This is the city’s way to protect its citizens by saying no to discrimination.”
“With political will, we would be able to realize the equality that everyone has long hoped for. In Quezon City, everyone stands equal,” Belmonte added.
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