Same-sex marriage petitioner asking SC for ‘freedom to love’

Petitioners pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage is fighting for their “freedom to love.”

“Petitioners ask the honorable court to rule for same-sex marriage, to rule for love, for to love is to be human. We are simply asking your honor for the freedom to love,” Darwin Angeles, counsel for petitioner Jesus Nicardo Falcis III, who is also a lawyer, told the assembled magistrates of the Supreme Court during Tuesday’s oral arguments.

“The right to marry is one of the most cherished and basic rights of a person. It is an associational right founded on the universally recognized liberty of every human person to associate with whom his or her heart so chooses without interference from the State,” he added.

He argued that the state has no right “to dictate any kind of life that a couple chooses to lead” and “any attempt to regulate their lifestyle would raise serious constitutional questions.”

The high court has opted to hear the oral arguments to Falcis’ petition, which was filed nearly three years ago.

His petition sought to legalize same-sex marriage in the country and declare as unconstitutional provisions of the Family Code that defines and limits marriage as between man and woman” and to nullify portions of Articles 4.6 (4) and 55 (6) of the same code that set lesbianism or homosexuality as grounds for annulment and legal separation.

In his petition, Falcis argued that limiting civil marriages and rights that go with it to heterosexuals violates constitutionally-guaranteed provisions on equal treatment and constitute undue interference to liberty rights and marital autonomy.

“The text of the Constitution is clear – marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family. But nothing in the Constitution limits the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman,” Falcis said.

“When the Constitution says no person shall be denied equal protection of the laws and the state values the dignity of every human, it requires that marriage includes couples, straight or LGBT, who are similarly situated as a class that would serve as the foundation of the family,” he added.

Falcis stressed that LGBT couples with or without children constitute a family too and should have access to marriage like “traditional model” of a family.

He added that no human being should be treated as second-class citizen, especially since the Constitution mandates equal rights for every person.

“We are different your honors, but we are still also human beings who loved and are loved in return. Like other Filipinos, LGBT couples are families too,” he added.

Citing the case of petitioner-intervenors Crescencio Agbayani Jr. and Marlon Felipe, Falcis said the two ahd been together for 12 years and recently got married under a religious ceremony by the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination that affirmed LGBT marriage after the Quezon City Civil Registrars Office denied their application to marry last Aug. 3, 2015.

He said Felipe, who was a public school teacher, was accused of being immoral in his workplace due to his relationship with Agbayani.

“Despite the fact that they got married under a religious ceremony, he was accused of immorality and he could not show naysayers that it’s as okay for he could not legally marry,” Falcis said.

He also cited a similar case when gay couple Pastor Jason Masaganda and Lester Budy from the Metropolitan Community Church also tried to apply for a marriage license just last June 7 but met the same fate.

He said this only showed the need to legalize same-sex marriage in the country and give rights to LGBT couples.

“Legally, intervenors Agbayani and Felipe are strangers to each other,” Falcis said. “Forced and condemned by the Family Code to live out the rest of their lives as strangers. And that is an infringement on the Constitutional right of petitioners, primarily to right to marry. While they cannot make a biological child together, that does not make their relationship less of a family.”

The justices, however, threw tough questions at Falcis.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen warned him that he was up against a ‘”powerful heteronormative culture” considering that the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, where divorce is still illegal, where lesbianism and homosexuality are grounds for annulment of marriage and where the Family Code states that marriage is limited between a man and woman.

“What is this with recognition, what is it that is added by the legal recognition of marriage,” Leonen asked, to which Falcis said without marriage, LGBT couples would lose access to a bundle of rights as their relationships are not legally recognized by the state.

“It [marriage] would allow them access to numerous rights and obligations like the right to make decisions for their partner in the event of sickness or medical accidents where their partner is in comatose and cannot decide for himself. They also cannot inherit or claim SSS, GSIS benefits, your Honor,” Falcis answered.

Pressed by Leonen if marriage certificates was necessary for LGBT couples, Falcis answered in the negative.

For her part, Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe questioned Falcis’ legal standing to bring the matter to the SC, adding that he had not suffered a direct injury due to the enactment of the Family Code since he himself had not applied for marriage license.

“What direct injury have you sustained because of the Family Code?” Bernabe asked.

Falcis answered: “The passage of the family Code violates rights such as equal protections of laws, right to dignity and right to have a family.”

He asserted that an individual’s right to choose who they want to spend the rest of their lives with is intertwined with other rights.

On the other hand, Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza and Lucas Bersamin believed that the case was still not ripe for discussion at the high court.

“The Supreme Court needs factual records,’ Jardeleza said, citing the importance of following the hierarchy of courts.

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro asked Falcis again: “If they come to court and there is no law to guide judges, how will the judges decide?”

The petitioner said the Civil Code and ultimately the Constitution would guide the judges and justices.

The oral argument will continue on June 26, with Solicitor General Jose Calida taking his turn to argue for the government. /atm

Don’t miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.