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Gay Marriages All the Rage in the Philippines

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Dec 10, 2010
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Marriage equality is not legal in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, but that has not stopped a growing number of gay and lesbian families from celebrating their long-term commitment.

The celebrations are referred to as "holy unions," according to a Dec. 10 New York Times article. The ceremonies are also called "blessings," the article said. Such blessings, like sexual contact between consenting adults, are not illegal in the Philippines, though they do not carry any benefits under the law.

The New York Times noted that though gay couples could live together--and gay singles seek prospective partners--without threat of legal consequences, the influence of the Catholic church had helped prevent anti-discrimination legislation from passing in the Philippines. Moreover, the article said, there has been a push to pre-emptively ban marriage equality for gay and lesbian families, as well as for families in which one partner has transitioned from one gender to the other.

One anti-gay religious leader told the media that a same-sex couple declaring a commitment to one another was "an exercise in futility," the article said. "Marriage has always been between a man and a woman," declared the Rev. Melvin Castro, who serves as the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines organization the Commission on Family and Life.

Other religious leaders, including GLBT people of faith, questioned that assertion. "This is important to us. Why would anybody want us, who believe in the same God, deprived of this simple joy?" Metropolitan Community Church pastor Regen Luna queried. Luna, who is based in Manila, officiates at the same-sex blessings. "Unions like this are also held in other M.C.C. chapters in other parts of the Philippines," noted Luna.

Another Metropolitan Community Church man of the cloth, an 82-year-old gay American pastor named Richard Mickley, told the New York Times, "What I do is a religious ceremony." The civil law of the Philippines being what it is, "We don’t use the word ’marriage,’ " added Mickley, who reckoned that he had performed "hundreds" of blessings. "We use ’holy union’ instead." Mickley--who has founded an order named for St. Aelred, a monk who lived eight centuries ago. The article noted that St. Aelred has been adopted as a patron saint by some among the GLBT faith community.

A Wikipedia article notes that the Philippines does not exclude gays from military service, but there are no legal alternatives, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions, to fill the gap in legal protections for gay families.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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