MANILA – The road to the approval of same-sex marriage in the country by the Supreme Court (SC) may not be as smoothly paved as in the United States.
More than a month before the landmark ruling of the US Supreme Court allowing same-sex marriage in all US states, a petition was filed in the Philippines’ high court seeking a similar decision.
In a 31-page petition filed last May 18, lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III asked the SC to nullify and declare as unconstitutional provisions of the Family Code, which laid down the legal framework for the ban on same-sex marriage.
The SC, however, did not immediately act on the petition when justices resumed session last June 16 following a six-week recess.
An insider told The STAR that most justices consider the case as a ”rather sensitive” one that ”might be too tough to resolve.”
According to the source, the Falcis case was included in the agenda but the magistrates deferred acting on it even when they usually seek comments from respondents without giving due course to petitions.
”It was not taken up,” the source revealed, noting that the case was likewise no longer included in the agenda when the justices again sat in session last week.
The source – a member of the Court who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is pending and for lack of authority to speak for the Court – expressed belief that there is no urgency in ruling on Falcis’ petition.
The magistrate explained that unlike in the US, no law ”expressly allowing” same-sex marriage in the country has been passed yet, suggesting that the case may still be premature.
Asked on the chances of an SC approval on the petition, the insider did not directly respond and said it might be ”too early to tell.”
Court observers, however, cited ”religious background” of the current SC justices as a possible factor.
Most members of the SC are devout Catholics, while Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is an active member of a born-again Christian church.
But the insider stressed that they only base their decisions as magistrates on legal and constitutional considerations, citing their earlier ruling upholding the legality of the Reproductive Health Law despite vehement opposition from the Catholic Church.
Despite the development in the US, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said over the weekend that it will maintain what it has always taught about the sacrament of matrimony: that marriage “is a permanent union of a man and a woman, in the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual fulfillment that the union of a man and a woman brings into the loftiness of the matrimonial bond.”
In his petition, Falcis specifically assailed Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code, which limited marriage as between a man and a woman.
The provisions define marriage as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life” and “the foundation of the family and inviolable social institution.”
Falcis, who admitted his homosexuality in his petition, also questioned Articles 46 (4) and 55 (6) of the law, which set concealment of homosexuality or lesbianism as ground for annulment and legal separation.
He argued that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the rights of homosexuals and lesbians to due process and equal protection, to decisional and marital privacy and to found a family in accordance with their religious or irreligious convictions.
Falcis further alleged that the Family Code was approved with grave abuse of discretion as it effectively repealed the 1949 Civil Code and the Constitution, which did not specify parties in a lawful marriage. He named the Civil Registrar-General as a respondent in the case.
The Family Code was issued as Executive Order 209 in 1987 by the late former President Corazon Aquino.
Falcis cited his “personal stake” in seeking relief from the high court, saying he sustained direct injury from the ban since he plans to marry in the country.