SC sets guidelines on same-sex marriage oral arguments

MANILA — The Supreme Court has issued guidelines on the oral arguments on June 19 regarding the petition challenging the validity of provisions of the Family Code limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

The oral arguments will take up a petition originally filed by lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III on May 18, 2015, seeking the lifting of the prohibitions on same-sex marriage for being unconstitutional.

Named as respondents in the case were the Civil Registrar General while the petitioners-in-intervention were LGBTS Christian Church Inc., Rev. Crescencio “Ceejay” Agbayani Jr., Marlon Felipe, and Maria Arlyn “Sugar” Ibanez. Lawyer Fernando Perito is the intervenor.

Falcis filed the case shortly after some states in the US allowed the union of same-sex couples.

In the Philippines, a pending bill at the House of Representatives is considering the possibility of recognizing “civil unions,” regardless of sexual orientation.

In May 2016, the government, through then solicitor general Florin Hilbay, formally opposed Falcis’ petition, claiming that it is an “intrinsically flawed” and “ill-timed suit.”

In a three-page SC en banc advisory, the high court gave each of the parties 20 minutes to argue their case before the SC en banc.

After each presentation, the justices will be given the “privilege to ask any question on any relevant matter or require submission of any document necessary for an enlightened resolution of this case.”

The parties are directed to argue on the following issues:
A. Whether or not the petition and/or the petition in intervention is properly the subject of the exercise of the Court’s power of judicial review;
B. Whether or not the right to marry and the right to choose whom to marry are cognates of the right to life and liberty;
C. Whether or not the limitation of civil marriage to opposite sex couples is a valid exercise of police power;
D. Whether or not limiting civil marriages to opposite sex couples violates the equal protection clause;
E. Whether or not denying same sex couples the right to marry amounts to a denial of their right to life and/or liberty without due process of law;
F. Whether or not sex-based conceptions of marriage violate religious freedom;
G. Whether or not a determination that Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code are unconstitutional must necessarily carry with it the conclusion that Articles 46(4) and 55(6) of the Family Code (re: homosexuality and lesbianism as grounds for annulment and legal separation) are also unconstitutional; and
H. Whether or not the parties are entitled to the reliefs prayed for.

In his petition, Falcis sought to nullify Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code as well as Articles 46 (4) and 55 (6) of the same law. Articles 1 and 2 limit marriages between man and woman while Articles 46 (4) and 55 (6) cite lesbianism or homosexuality as grounds for annulment and legal separation.

The Office of the Solicitor General argued Falcis’ petition fails to demonstrate an “injury in fact” from the implementation of the Family Code. Injury in fact is the litigant’s “personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain, direct injury as a result of (the law’s) enforcement.”

Falcis is also asking the SC to “prohibit the Civil Registrar-General from enforcing the aforementioned portions of Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code in processing applications for and in issuing marriage licenses against homosexual couples.”

The petitioner argued that such limitations imposed by the Family Code favoring only opposite-sex marriages effectively repealed the 1949 Civil Code, which did not make a distinction.

He argued that “Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code violate his constitutionally protected right to due process and equal protection, right to decisional privacy and right to found a family in accordance with religious conviction.”

He said limiting marriage between a man and a woman is a grave abuse of discretion considering that the Constitution does not define marriage solely as between a man and a woman and that even the Family Code does not require married individuals to procreate or have the ability to procreate.

He also argued that “heterosexuals are no better parents than homosexuals” just as “homosexuals are not necessarily worse parents than heterosexuals.”

“Homosexuals can raise children well in the same manner that heterosexual couples can. While there is no assurance that gays will not be bad or incompetent parents, there is also no assurance that heterosexuals will not be bad or incompetent parents. This Honorable Court has itself stated that sexual preference or moral laxity alone does not prove parental neglect or incompetence,” he said.

Falcis added that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, can also fulfill marital obligations laid down by the Family Code, such as the obligation to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity and render mutual help and support, fix the family domicile and support the family, and pay the expenses for such support and other conjugal obligations.