(The following article is reprinted from queerlife.co.za)
PROSECUTED FOR DARING TO MARRY
A Gay-affirming Community Church carried out a mass wedding for gay and lesbian families in the Philippine city of Baguio, recently. Now the city government is considering whether to prosecute those who participated.
The event was part of the city’s Pride Month celebrations. The mass wedding drew sharp criticism from leaders of other religious traditions, the newspaper reported.
Before the wedding took place, a Catholic cleric, Bishop Carlito Cenzon, condemned the plan, saying, "Same-sex wedding is wrong and cannot be called a holy union," the local newspaper, Sun-Star reported in a June 23 article.
"We pity them, they love each other, but they cannot be wed," the bishop added.
But the wedding ceremony went forward at the Metropolitan Community Church, to the displeasure of local government officials. Eight couples were wed. Among the celebrants were even a few Americans.
The three pastors who officiated faced threats of having their licenses to officiate at weddings yanked, CBCP News.com reported on June 29.
"Councilor Richard Cariño said the City Council could declare a person unwelcome if he or she is found violating laws and his actions are contrary to the principles and ordinances of the city, and if his actions are oppressive to the community".
Cariño indicated that the couples and Metropolitan Community Church clergy alike could face censure.
Another city council member, Edison Bilog, suggested that the city government might pass a resolution against the participants in order to level charges at them, and claimed that the wedding was violation of Philippines law, specifically, Revised Penal Code section 352.
But attorney Cheryl Daytec said that the wedding was not a violation of any law, since it was not legally binding and not portrayed as such.
Daytec may not find much support from the local legal community. The Sun-Star reported that the city’s chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines had condemned the marriage ceremony and posited that the wedding was a legal infraction.
Local queer equality activists refused to back down, issuing their own statement and decrying anti-gay animus.
"We believe that the combined pronouncements and actions made by the aforementioned parties are clearly discriminatory and violate the human rights of the LGBT persons, their families and entire communities," the Baguio Pride Network said in a June 30 media conference.
Though acceptance of queer folk has been increasing in the Philippines, as in many nations globally, there are no legal protections for sexual minorities or their families. Sexual encounters between consenting adults of the same gender are not illegal, and the Philippines discarded its ban on openly gay and lesbian military members two years ago. But a statute prohibiting "grave scandal" gives authorities in the Philippines some leverage for prosecuting gays, according to a Wikipedia article.
Metropolitan Community Churches preach acceptance for queer folk in many nations with anti-gay laws, including African nations, Eastern European countries, the United States, and Jamaica.