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Philippine President Supports Gay Marriage—But Not Gay Divorce

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is ready to let same-sex couples marry, but there’s just one catch: He doesn’t want to allow them to divorce.

In June, the South Asian archipelago’s High Court is set to hear oral arguments in a case challenging the 1987 Family Code, which prohibits LGBTQ partners from tying the knot. Articles 1 and 2 limit the federal definition of marriage to one man and one woman, while Articles 46(4) and 55 (6) permit “homosexuality and lesbianism” to be used as grounds for an annulment.

Attorney Jesus Falcis III believes the law is violation of the country’s constitution, which does not specify the gender of partners allowed to wed. The documents outlines “the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.”

Falcis’ petition, filed in 2015, claims the rights of marriage “of transcendental importance to the millions of LGBTQ Filipinos all over the country who are deprived of marrying the one they want or the one they love.”

“Those who pursue same-sex relationships despite the stigma are deprived of the bundle of rights that flow from a legal recognition of a couple’s relationshipvisitation and custody rights, property and successional rights, and other privileges accorded to opposite-sex relations,” he claims.

Should the High Court rule in favor of marriage equality, Duterte says he’s prepared to back the decision, despite his frequent flip-flops on the issue.

Back in 2016, the politician claimed there was “an error in the Bible” over the subject of homosexuality, saying that marriage was “Adam, Eve and the gays.” But later he reneged on that apparent support for LGBTQ rights, claiming that marriage equality is a Western phenomenon alien to the country’s traditions.

“That is their culture,” Duterte said in 2017. “That’s for them. That can’t apply to us because we are Catholics.”

But just months later, the autocratic leader had yet another change of heart. In December, he claimed he was in favor of marriage equality “if that is the trend of modern times.”

“If that will add to your happiness, I am for it,” Duterte told members of the local LGBTQ community in the city of Davao.

One issue, though, that the president has yet to budge on is divorce, which may prove an issue for same-sex couples should they be allowed to wed. Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation is the only major country in the world which does not allow couples to dissolve their union. Vatican City also forbids divorce.

The Absolute Divorce Act 2018 was approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month.

Despite a 2017 survey showing a majority of Filipinos (53 percent) support the legislation, Duterte opposes the bill. Prior to his election to the presidency in 2016, he claimed he was “not in favor of divorce for the sake of the children,” preferring couples separate instead.

“In legal separation, there’s still hope for the husband and wife to come together but not in divorce,” Duterte said.

Even though the president has himself sought an annulment from ex-wife Sarah Zimmerman, Duterte has continued to defend his opposition to the Divorce Act. His spokesperson, Harry Roque, recently told press that “the children would be pitiful if there will be divorce.”

Duterte has not publicly stated whether he plans to veto the bill if it passes Congress.

So while the Phillippines’ LGBTQ community may be set to celebrate a historic victory, same-sex couples who walk down the aisle after the High Court ruling comes down better be sure about their decision. If the president has his way, there will be no taking it back.

Photo via LINUS ESCANDOR II/AFP/Getty Images

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