On 25th June, 8 same-sex couples were voluntarily wed in holy union ceremonies in the City of Baguio, Philippines as part of the annual LGBT Pride celebrations of the Baguio Pride Network (BPN), a gay-straight alliance that sponsors the city's Pride events.
The ceremonial unions were branded as marriage by the local media. Different interest groups in the city - namely the city mayor, leaders of evangelical churches, some religious lawyers, some city councilors and the Roman Catholic hierarchy - reacted negatively, and these parties quickly condemned the "same-sex marriage" as illegal and immoral, and those who participated and organized it were branded as mentally-ill, abnormal and disgusting. As word spread nationwide, some leaders of the Roman Catholic church in the country's capital Manila branded the ceremonial unions as reprehensible and stated that the gay and lesbian couples can be charged in court for entering illegal marriages.
Within a few days, the city council of Baguio City tabled an official inquiry in early July to determine if legal charges can be filed against the couple and the officiating pastors, based on the resolutions proposed by Councilors Philian Louise C. Weygan-Allan and Edison R. Bilog. Meanwhile, Christian denominations in the city that include the Roman Catholics, mainstream Protestant and evangelicals are mobilizing people to hold street protests, signature campaigns and media appearances, calling for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons to boycott gay community events and for the general public to condemn homosexuality. Their counterparts all over the country are also mobilizing online and established a Facebook page for coordinating actions and collecting signatures and funds.
The Baguio Pride Network responded to these attacks by holding meetings and media briefings to educate the public on the real issues which can be summarized as:
1. The holy unions are not and cannot be marriages since by law, marriages are by definition between people of the opposite sex, therefore, the persons involved did not break any law.
2. The holy unions are private religious practices that are guaranteed under the Bill of Rights protecting religious freedom and cannot be proscribed by other religions.
3. The human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens of the city must be respected and the local and national government are duty-bound to protect these rights because the Philippines is signatory and enforcer of fundamental international covenants on human rights.
4. The LGBT communities in Baguio and the rest of the country are feeling the ill effects of the negative responses that are fundamentally coming from homophobia in Philippine culture. The couples who entered the holy unions are most especially bearing the brunt of stressful effects of the controversy.
5. The circumstances show that the LGBTs in the Philippines badly need the protection of anti-discrimination legislation to protect LGBTs from both private and state-sponsored homophobia, discriminatory acts and other crimes against persons and property.
PRESENT SITUATION AND LIKELY SCENARIO:
As events unfold, the LGBT community of Baguio fear that in the coming days the local government of Baguio and private interest groups that are agitating to level charges against us and mobilize their forces are coordinating their actions that would:
1. Declare the persons involved in the holy union - officiating pastors and couples - liable for breaking the law and can face arrest and prosecution in the courts;
2. Produce an ordinance that would ban same-sex unions in the city, and other related anti-LGBT ordinances and policies that would violate our economic, social and cultural rights;
3. Encourage both government agencies and private interest groups to organize and impose mandatory procedures upon persons who are LGBT or perceived to be LGBT for therapies or counseling sessions that aim to rewire their sexual orientation and gender identity;
4. Create an atmosphere of heightened homophobia that would lead to even more hate crimes and homophobic attacks.
There are also strong indications that other government units and agencies and private interest groups around the country are agitating to form their own groups and actions that have similar aims and agenda.
We are starting to receive documentation of individual LGBTs that experience bodily harassment that includes compulsory signing of petitions against different LGBT issues, verbal abuses and other hate-related actions that are directly related to these circumstances.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
The Baguio Pride Network is appealing for help from the international community to help us fight back these homophobic attacks on our local and national communities.
At this point, we ask you to sign this Petition to be submitted to the City Government of Baguio. This petition will appeal to officials to respect the rights of the LGBTs in Baguio, recall the order to investigate the gay and lesbian couples, and instead legislate the Anti-Discrimination Law. As soon as we get enough signatures, we will submit these to the City Government officials.
You can also send your personal email to the Baguio City Government. To make sending your mail more convenient, you can click on this link http://www.baguio.gov.ph/index.php?q=contact and paste the petition or type your message.
At some point, because of the rapid development in the circumstances, we may ask you again to sign another appeal to the national duty bearers and international agencies.
We are affixing our names to this letter that is tasking you to protect the human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents of your esteemed city.
It has come to our attention that some parties are reacting negatively to the fact that a few same-sex couples availed of the holy union commitment ceremonies officiated by the officials of a legally-constituted religious group, the Metropolitan Community Church in your city. The actions that these parties are undertaking, however, are becoming increasingly hostile and uncivil and are dangerously putting the City of Baguio on a course towards discrimination, bigotry, and violence.
We wish to remind you that the City of Baguio is founded on the principles of peace and acceptance, so we appeal to your better judgment to render graceful accommodation to our hardworking LGBT communities in our city. We ask that your kind office stop proposed moves to level criminal charges.
We hope that you can offer protection for LGBT persons in Baguio against a rising sentiment of homophobia and hostility that could translate to physical violence and worse, multiple killings and injuries.
We also ask you to endorse a local ordinance that would protect LGBTs in Baguio from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
We are monitoring developments on this issue and we will get in touch constantly to appraise your efforts to respond to this appeal.
Keep up the great work. Look what you've accomplished!
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