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Philippine President Flip-Flops on Same-Sex Marriage After Calling U.S. Ambassador ‘Gay Son of a Whore’

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte continued his long trend of contradictory statements on LGBTQ rights this weekend by coming out in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

At a Sunday conference in his hometown of Davao City, Duterte pledged to be an ally to the LGBTQ community after backtracking on campaign promises to work for equality. The local newspaper Philippine Star reports the president claimed it would be possible to “change the law” and allow same-sex couples to marry.

“I want gay marriage,” he said. “[…] If that is the trend of the modern times, if that will add to your happiness, I am for it.”

The 72-year-old also claimed that he would support the nomination of an LGBTQ official to his cabinet, telling the queer and trans community in the Philippines to suggest a candidate by the second week of January.

“I don’t have any problem with that,” Duterte said.

“Now find me the brightest here in the Philippines,” he continued, adding that the ideal candidate would be “honest” and “hardworking.” “Give me a bright person. He might be gay, he might be lesbian [sic]. I’d like to nominate or appoint somebody upon the nomination.”

In a speech that was bizarre even by Duterte’s standards, he claimed two of his brother-in-laws are gay. The president, who has previously joked that he’s a “reformed” gay man, told the conference that he questioned his gender identity while he was in high school. “I did not know if I wanted to be a girl or a boy,” Duterte alleged.

The Philippine leader acknowledged his renewed support of same-sex marriage was likely to face opposition from bishops in an island nation where 86 percent of the population is Roman Catholicbut dismissed potential backlash from religious groups.

“Why impose a morality that is no longer working and almost passé?” he said. “It’s leftover rice.”

It remains to be seen how long Duterte, who has flip-flopped numerous times on LGBTQ issues in his year-old presidency, will continue to stand by these sentiments. After getting elected in June 2016 as a supporter of marriage equality, he had already changed his mind just nine months later.

On the subject of Laverne Cox’s Time magazine cover, the president claimed in March that LGBTQ rights were alien to the Catholic tradition of the Philippinescalling them part of Western culture.

“That’s for them,” he said. “That’s their culture. It does not apply to us.”

Duterte, who has spearheaded one of the world’s most brutal and deadly anti-drug campaigns, has used homophobic insults to deride and dismiss his critics.

Last year he referred to outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg as “gay” and the “son of a whore” (the latter a favorite jibe of Duterte’s). He also suggested Chito Gascon, chair of the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines, was a child rapist for speaking out about the murder of numerous teenagers in the country’s bloody crusade on drugs.

“Why are you smitten with teenagers?” Duterte asked in September. “[…] I’m having my doubts. Are you gay or a pedophile?”

Should the president’s backing of same-sex marriage be sincere, a push to legalize marriage equality may be surprisingly divisive in one of Asia’s most LGBTQ-inclusive countries. Although 85 percent of the population backs LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws, less than a quarter of citizens are in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Photography: Getty Images


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.