Transgender Legislator Hopes Pope’s Civil Unions Support Can Advance LGBTQ Bills

Geraldine Roman

A transgender Catholic legislator in the Philippines has been using Pope Francis’ recent endorsement of same-gender civil unions to encourage LGBTQ equality in that country, including the legalization of civil unions. 

Representative Geraldine Roman, a member of the Philippines’ House of Representatives, said in an interview that the pope’s civil union support is further proof the country’s legislature can take up such legal protections. Inquirer.net reported:

“[Roman said:] ‘I would say so. Because there clearly is a distinction between civil union and marriage. These two legislative measures only refer to civil unions and the granting of legal protection with their corresponding rights and obligations. . .

“‘This brings us a glimmer of hope. The fact is that many of my colleagues who are practicing Catholics had doubts about the possibility of a civil union but with the Pope’s statement, I think it will spell the difference,[‘] Roman said.

“Further, Roman also expressed hopes that under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, pro-LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) legislation such as the proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill will be passed.

“‘I am pleased to inform you that our Speaker now Lord Allan Velasco actually signed the SOGIE Equality Bill and the co-author in the 17th Congress. He is a young man and is quite open-minded,’ Roman said.

“‘He is a practicing Catholic and after hearing the statement of the Pope, I believe that our Speaker Lord Allan Velasco will allow this bill to be at least handled in the committee and will allow the members to vote on it,’ she added.”

Manila Bulletin reported that Roman, who is the Philippines’ first openly transgender congressperson, further cited the pope’s civil unions support in hearings about that SOGIE Equality Bill. In her response to the anti-LGBTQ comments, Roman remarked:

“‘Clearly, our beloved Pope Francis said that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people deserve to have families and to be in families, and that they shouldn’t be shunned away or ostracized or marginalized. . .

“‘We’re also part of the family and part of society.'”

Dispelling the falsehood that the SOGIE bills are designed to legislate marriage equality, Roman clarified that the bill’s fundamental purpose is to provide robust anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ persons. In an interview with the Manila Bulletin, the legislator asserted:

“‘It hurts me as a Catholic to see comments on FB live that the SOGIE equality bill is anti-family,’ said Roman, who is one of the authors of the controversial measure.”

“‘This bill will not redefine what a family is. So to those who accuse this very positive and welcome legislative measure as anti-family…get a hold of yourselves. Read the bill instead of just repeating like a mantra–you’re acting like trolls–that this is anti-family.'”

Bills on both civil unions and anti-discrimination measures for LGBTQ people are currently under review by legislators in the Philippines.

This attempt is not the first time that Roman has used her governmental office to promote LGBTQ equality. In 2017, she was able to get the House of Representatives to unanimously pass a gender identity protection bill. Such bills had failed for over two decades, opposed, according to Manila Bulletin, by “conservative politicians, backed by Catholic and evangelical groups. . . arguing that they would infringe on people’s right to religious expression.” The bill failed in the Senate at that time.

By drawing on Pope Francis’s profound statement, Roman echoes the pope’s keen awareness of the discrimination and violence LGBTQ persons face on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

To provide basic human rights protections for LGBTQ persons, which Pope Francis’ statement endorses, would acknowledge a coherent identity of a marginalized group, not based on sexual activity or an attempt to redefine the family, but on their personhood as children of God.

To read Bondings 2.0’s ongoing analysis of Pope Francis’s support of same-gender civil marriages, click here.

Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, December 9, 2020

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