Antisexual discrimination bill hurdles House panel
MANILA, Philippines—The antisexual discrimination bill on Tuesday hurdled the committee level in the House of Representatives despite stiff opposition from the Catholic Church and self-proclaimed ex-homosexuals.
The substitute bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (Sogi) was approved by the gender equality committee in a vote of 10-2.
The bill, called the Anti-Sogi Discrimination Act, seeks to penalize discriminatory practices on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Prohibited discriminatory practices include bias against employees, refusal to admit a person in an institution, denial of access to health services and harassment by law enforcers, all due to sexual orientation and gender identity.
In separate statements, authors of the bill denied that the proposed measure seeks to legalize same-sex marriage.
This was supposedly enshrined in Section 4 which cited as discrimination the denial of an application or revocation of a professional or other kind of license, clearance certification or any other document issued by the government due to the applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“There were concerns that this provision would open doors for members of the LGBT community to a same-sex union. To clarify, the provision solely prevents government agencies from denying individuals to secure ordinary licenses such as driver’s license and other certifications, based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.
“They must read and understand the bill carefully. Nothing in the bill grants recognition to same-sex marriage. This important and long overdue measure simply seeks to protect basic rights of citizens. It does not ask for special rights,” said Dinagat Rep. Kaka Bag-ao.
The committee passed the bill in an executive session, shortly after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and a former homosexual opposed the passage of the bill.
CBCP lawyer Jo Imbong told the panel the bill is discriminatory itself because it creates a separate class of citizens who will have special rights over others.
“Far from fostering equality, the bill creates a class of citizens protected in a matter that is more advantaged than the general citizenry, precisely institutionalizing inequality in violation of the equal protection clause,” Imbong said.
Imbong also said discrimination is not necessarily wrong, saying it is only another word for “decision making” in schools and workplaces protected by the constitutional right to academic freedom.
“Not all discrimination is wrong … Discrimination, after all, is just another word for decision-making, for choosing and acting in accord with or with reference to particular criteria. We do and should discriminate, we draw lines, identify limits, make judgments, act on the basis of preference, all the time,” she said.
Anselmo Beluso, who calls himself an “ex-gay,” said the bill discriminated against those who have deviated from their gay lifestyles.
“This bill is actually guilty of discrimination. It discriminates against people like me who have a homosexual orientation but have chosen to find and treat the path to change,” he said.
He said his last gay sexual encounter was 16 years ago and now he is happily married to a wife with two children and an adopted son.
“Every day was a humongous struggle to confront and conquer the many temptations that abounded everywhere I turned … There is a way. Change is possible. I am not a freak … Homosexuality is an objective disorder … It predisposes the person to that which is ultimately not good for him,” Beluso said.