The Philippines still has a long way to go before recognizing same-sex marriages or even same-sex civil unions, but that isn't stopping LGBTQ+ couples from cementing their love.
In fact, in February, the Quezon City government held a "commitment ceremony" for 222 queer pairs to celebrate their love. But did you know that there's a church in Mandaluyong that marries LGBTQ+ couples?
Enter: Open Table Metropolitan Community Church, an ecumenical Christian church with a specific outreach to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Aside from preaching an inclusive message, one of the services they offer is holy union—which is the closest thing queer couples in the Philippines can get to marriage right now.
What is Holy Union?
The rite of holy union is the spiritual joining of two persons by a duly authorized clergy. According to Open Table MCC, the essence of this rite is the pair's vow, their pledging of deep fidelity to each other.
Although in essence, a holy union sounds like a marriage, it is not since the latter is recognized by the government.
"If it's on the religious aspect, it's exactly the same. The principle is the same, the theology is the same. It is marriage, but the word 'marriage' took on a legal meaning and legal consequences," Rev. Joseph San Jose told PhilStar L!fe.
"Since wala pang law na nagrerecognize ng pagsasama, ng pagsosolemnize ng LGBTQI+, then we coined the term 'holy union.'"
According to San Jose, the unions are not recognized in the country, but they can be recognized in other countries in certain cases. But for most marriages to be legally recognized anywhere, they must be legal in the home country. As of 2022, 30 countries allow for same-sex marriages, including Chile, US, UK, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and more.
The importance of marriage
For LGBTQ+ couples, marriages and civil union is not just about putting their love on paper, it's also that they want to enjoy the rights that come with it.
Since there's no legal recognition for queer unions, couples cannot file for joint adoption. They can still care for a child but only one of them can be legally recognized as the parent.
Partners also won't enjoy the same benefits and privileges granted to heterosexual spouses.
But at the heart of it, marriage equality is about human rights, according to San Jose.
"We have the right to choose who we love and build our lives with as consenting adults. At the heart of why regardless of religion, not just SOGIE, if there's a legal recognition and protection for heterosexual people, there should also be the same for other people," he said.
In the 18th Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate filed two bills recognizing civil partnerships for couples of either the opposite or same sex, but these yet to be passed.
"It's a fundamental right. And that right also comes from one of the most fundamental human relationships: intimacy," San Jose said. "If you give it to one group, you should give it to another group. You should not deny that."