By Jan Carlo Anolin
A transwoman lawmaker said the passing of a measure that will ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) is needed not to ask for special rights and privileges but rather to address the special needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) sector.
This, Bataan 1st district Rep. Geraldine Roman stressed Friday following queries on the need to pass the SOGIE Equality bill than having a general measure for anti-discrimination that encompasses all sectors.
“[I]t’s time to dispel the old stereotypes. It’s time to open our doors to fellow Filipinos who just happened to be members of the LGBT community,” Roman said in an interview with CNN Philippine’s The Source.
Roman said she sees nothing wrong in having a specific law for the LGBTQ+ sector since, they, too, have special needs and different circumstances.
“Mga kababayan, hindi po kami humihingi ng mga special rights and privileges. Kaya nga lang po talagang may isang sektor na may ispesyal na pangangailangan na hindi natutugunan kasi noong araw hindi naman natin naiintindihan [at] hindi tanggap ‘yung LGBTQ,” Roman said.
(Fellow countrymen, we are not asking for special rights or privileges here. But there is one sector that has special needs but was disregarded before because we cannot fully understand and accept the LGBTQ.)
She said she felt the need for such separation for the same reason that we have laws protecting the rights of women, children, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), persons with disabilities (PWDs), and other sectors that have been traditionally marginalized in the society.
During the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives passed the said bill on third and final reading but was not able to make it in the Senate since some senators still have their doubts which caused its delay.
READ MORE: Bill shields LGBT from discrimination
HB 134, or the proposed “Anti-Discrimination Based on SOGIE Act”, aims to “protect LGBT members and guarantee their rights as citizens of the Republic of the Philippines and their rights as human beings.”
It defines discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, access to, enjoyment, or exercise by all persons on an equal footing of all rights and freedom.”
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, for instance, said why not make a “happy compromise” and pass a general measure for anti-discrimination that will address other sectors — the LGBTQ + sector included.
Senator Joel Villanueva, who is for anti-discrimination measure, said he felt SOGIE bill was not the right measure that will tackle the issue because “it is not encompassing the different sectors of the society”.
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara has filed Senate Bill No. 137, or the proposed Comprehensive Discrimination Act of 2019, in an effort to create a more comprehensive anti-discrimination law that covers some acts not covered in the SOGIE bill.
Roman also filed the same measure in the lower house.
“I’ve filed a bill that will protect Filipinos from discrimination on the basis of age, physical appearance, religion, health status, and other possible motives for discrimination. Ginagawa natin ‘yan pero hinihiwalay ko po yung sa LGBTQ kasi iba rin ang kanilang circumstances (We did that but I separated the LGBTQ because they have different circumstances),” Roman said.
The solon also dismissed claims that the SOGIE is a prelude to same-sex marriage in the country, emphasizing that these claims are totally “unrelated, baseless, and misinformed.”
“It’s totally different, it’s simply the right to work, to study, to receive services from the government, to access commercial and public establishments and facilities and be spared from insults in the streets,” Roman said.
The arrest of a transwoman, Gretchen Diez, who was barred from entering a ladies’ comfort room on Tuesday has urged some lawmakers, including Roman and Senator Risa Hontiveros, to push for the passage of SOGIE bill.