Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez (photo courtesy of akbayan.org.ph)

Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez (photo courtesy of akbayan.org.ph)

MANILA (Mabuhay) -– Akbayan party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez said he will file a bill seeking to recognize same-sex marriages in the Philippines in the 17th Congress.

For Gutierrez, the time has come for same-sex marriage to be discussed in the Philippines, especially in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the entire nation.

Gutierrez made this announcement a day after Speaker Sonny Belmonte said Congress is not inclined to pass such a law anytime soon.

”Malaking senyales yung nangyaring desisyon sa SC na kailangan simulan ang usapin sa bansa tungkol sa same-sex marriage. Mahirap sa 16th Congress na magkaroon ng komprehensibong usapan pero definitely 17th Congress tingin ko ma-agenda na ito,” he said.

Gutierrez anticipates the bill to become as controversial as the Reproductive Health Law.

”Nag-agree ako sa reasoning ng US SC that we cannot discriminate legal benefits ng marriage between same sex and heterosexual couples,” he said.

”Kapag sinabing state recognition we’re not talking religious aspects you’re talking about legal benefits. If you look at US SC hinahabol lang niya lumabas ang pangalan sa death certificate ng late husband. That’s a legal question within purview of the state.”

Gutierrez said only a thorough discussion will determine whether the predominantly Catholic Philippines is prepared for this.

“Culturally that’s something that can be determined though discussion. Tingin ko we’re in a much more tolerant society than we were ten years ago,” he said.

Gutierrez said his bill might only be limited to state recognition of same-sex marriages. He said for obvious reasons, religious organizations won’t be compelled to recognize same-sex marriages.

“No law can compel religious institutions to change beliefs. What the bill can do is allow for mechanism for the state to recognize,” he said.

Gutierrez said all it will take is an amendment to the Family Code, disputing the argument of critics of same-sex marriage that it may require an amendment to the Constitution.

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice admitted he is torn on the issue of same-sex marriage. He said while he adheres to his religious beliefs, his daughter is a member of the LGBT community.

”I’m a devout Catholic and yet my daughter is also a son. LGBT. Nakita ko na merong ding mga needs para protektahan members of LGBT. For example, mga properties na-acquire nila so paano yun baka pag-awayan kung walang rules ang ating pamahalaan. I’m really torn between 2 situations,” Erice said.

Gutierrez said same-sex marriage is better off taken up in Congress rather than have the matter decided by the Philippine Supreme Court, which has a pending case similar to what the US SC tackled.

”It’s a debate na kailangan mangyari in a public sphere. The bill will provide impetus ng usapan. I’m inclined to file bill next Congress to start the ball rolling na mapag-debatehan,” he said.

Gutierrez, meantime, said he is surprised that the divorce bill pending in Congress hasn’t moved yet.

”Iyung divorce I’m a bit surpised ‘di pa na-take up sa Congress. Nagkaroon ng survey which says majority of Filipinos favor divorce. Representatives have hesitation to push agenda. Natatakot sa repercussions from certain institutions,” he said. (MNS)