Two men kiss as first results start to filter through in the referendum, Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, May 23, 2015. Ireland has voted resoundingly to legalize gay marriage in the world's first national vote on the issue, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared Saturday even as official ballot counting continued. AP
15 gay couples celebrate US victory with mass wedding
Fifteen gay couples will tie the knot in Quezon City on Sunday during an annual mass wedding sponsored by a gay people’s religious organization.
While same-sex marriage is not yet legally recognized in the Philippines, “we might just wake up to it” in light of the US Supreme Court ruling upholding gay marriage rights, Crescencio Agbayani Jr., the founding pastor of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight (LGBTS) Christian Church Inc., said on Saturday.
“I’m very excited (with the US Supreme Court decision) because it can happen here anytime soon,” Agbayani said, referring to Friday’s US Supreme Court ruling allowing gay unions in all 50 states.
The mass wedding will be held in the covered court at Barangay Sangandaan under the sponsorship of the LGBTS Christian Church and the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines.
“The issues that will be thrown at us regarding immorality, the Bible, etc.—the US Supreme Court has answered [all of them],” Agbayani said.
He said a petition similar to the plea for invalidation of key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act in the United States was pending in the Philippine Supreme Court.
His group, through the Philippine Marriage Equality Network, is supporting the petition filed by lawyer Jesus Nicanor Falcis on May 18 asking the Supreme Court to nullify the Family Code provisions limiting marriage to people of opposite sexes.
“We would wake up one morning to a Philippines with marriage equality,” Agbayani said.
‘Love knows no gender’
“Thousands of LGBT Filipino couples have long wished to be acknowledged as human beings capable of love and worthy of dignity,” Agbayani’s group said in a statement.
“We are free to believe that love knows no gender. We, as Filipino citizens, claim and demand our basic and inalienable right to be treated equally and with dignity under the 1987 Constitution,” it said.
Agbayani said the US Supreme Court decision could be used to bolster the arguments of the gay rights movement in the Philippines for equality.
He acknowledged, however, the possibility of strong resistance from the conservative sectors, especially the Roman Catholic Church.
‘Our issue is legal’
“We don’t want to fight the religious groups, it’s divisive. Our issue here is legal. The future is up to Bathala,” he said, using his group’s name for God. “I’m just very happy with the US decision.”
The LGBTS Christian Church has been conducting mass weddings for four years as a contribution to the annual Gay Pride rally.
The group, founded in 2006, is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a religious society, Agbayani said.
As a group practicing ecumenical Christianity, the organization does not convert, Agbayani said. It recognizes all baptism of the trinitarian Christian denomination.
Want to unite?
Gay couples can apply for marriage, or the rite to holy union, by personally going to Bahay Beki, the group’s headquarters, for orientation and counseling, Agbayani said.
The difference between holy union and holy matrimony is the legal recognition of holy matrimony, Agbayani said.
“The essence of the rite of the holy union is the exchanging of the vows by two loving persons who promise to be together for the rest of their lives with or without the legal papers. This is a private or public ceremony to be conducted purposely for the celebration of love,” the group says on its website.
Agbayani said the certification of holy union issued by his group had helped gay people who wanted to petition their partners living in other countries.
The embassies of countries that allow same-sex marriage recognize the certificate as proof of togetherness, he said.