Christian group protests against Philippines' anti-discrimination bill

A Christian group in the Philippines recently gathered to protest an anti-discrimination measure called the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill, saying the legislation was not necessary in the country.

(REUTERS / Romeo Ranoco)Supporters wave rainbow flags while marching during a LGBT Pride parade in metro Manila, Philippines June 25, 2016.

On Saturday, Feb. 10, members of the Christian Coalition for Righteousness Justice and Truth (CCRJT) converged at the People Power Monument to question the necessity of the SOGIE bill, claiming there was no systemic discrimination against LGBT individuals in the Philippines. The Christian group also said the existing laws protect the LGBT community from discrimination, GMA News relayed.

In a statement, CCRTJ said the real intention of the SOGIE bill was to pave the way for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Philippines. The group added that the bill aimed to redefine the "original meaning of sex and gender."

The SOGIE bill looks to criminalize discriminatory practices based on gender, with penalties ranging from P100,000 to P500,000 and jail time of one to six years. The House of Representatives approved the bill during its final reading in September 2017, but the Senate still has not approved its second reading.

In December, the Mindanao Evangelical Leaders Council (MELC) renewed its call to oppose the SOGIE bill. The group's president, Bishop Genes Udang, said evangelical churches respect the members of the LGBT community, but they cannot allow legislation to be approved if it would "discriminate" against the majority of the citizens, Sun Star reported.

"In crafting the bills aimed at protecting the LGBT members, our lawmakers didn't realize that the same bills will actually discriminate us, the majority," said Bishop Udang. "If that is your lifestyle, so be it, we don't have anything against it. But to try to enforce it that will, in effect, disorient our lifestyle, that is something that we must make a stand on because it curtails and it violates our Constitutional rights."

Like the CCRJT, Bishop Udang said the laws of the Philippines guarantee protection for the LGBT community against discrimination. He also noted that LGBT individuals enjoy acceptance and tolerance in the country.