MANILA- "We are simply asking for the freedom to love."
This was the argument of petitioners seeking the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Philippines.
"Petitioners ask the honorable court to rule for marriage, to rule for love, for to love is to be human. We are simply asking your honor for the freedom to love," lawyer Darwin Angeles told magistrates of the Supreme Court Tuesday.
The high court opened oral arguments on a May 2015 petition filed by lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III which sought to declare unconstitutional a portion of the Philippines' Family Code which "define and limit marriage as between man and woman."
Falcis, who described himself in the pleading as "an open and self-identified homosexual,” argued that parts of the Family Code violate homosexuals' right "to found a family" as protected under the 1987 Constitution.
Named respondents in the case were the Civil Registrar General while petitioners-in-intervention include LGBTs (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders) Christian Church Inc, Reverend Crescencio "Ceejay" Agbayani Jr., Marlon Felipe, and Maria Arlyn "Sugar" Ibanez.
The landmark case opens the legal discussion of a taboo in Asia's bastion of Catholicism and coincides with the LGBT community's celebration of Pride Month.
NO GENDER RESTRICTION IN CONSTITUTION
Angeles and Falcis delivered the opening statement for the petitioners, arguing that the state's charter does not provide any gender restrictions when it comes to marriage.
"There is absolutely no language in the 1987 Constitution or any of the previous constitutions that imposes a gender restriction in order for Filipinos to exercise their right to marry," Angeles said, maintaining that marriage is a "cherished and basic right of any person."
Limiting marriage between couples of the opposite sex therefore
"debases human beings who are LGBTs by depriving them of a right inherent in every human being," Angeles argued.
Angeles added that not allowing members of the LGBT community to marry denies them the right to choose their status.
"The freedom to choose her status which is a privilege that inheres in her as an intangible and inalienable right," he said.
MARRIAGE AS FOUNDATION OF A FAMILY
Falcis, on the other hand, argued that marriage as an institution of a family, is not limited to the "traditional model" which includes parents of opposite sexes and children.
"Marriage is indeed a special contract for the purpose of establishing a conjugal and family life. LGBT couples with or without children constitute a family too and should have access to marriage to serve as their foundation," he said.
"Same-sex couples just like opposite couples can establish a conjugal and family life," he added.
Falcis explained that denying LGBT couples the right to marry means that the state refuses to value their dignity as he asserted that there is no compelling state interest being served by depriving members of the LGBT community the right to marry.
"No group of people who are endowed by their God or Creator and recognized by the Constitution to have dignity and equality should ever be treated as a 2nd class citizen in their own land," he said.
"We are different your honors, but we are still also human beings who love and are loved. Like other Filipinos, LGBT couples are families too," he said.