The Philippines will not legalize same-sex marriage anytime soon, President Rodrigo Duterte has said, reversing a campaign promise in which he pledged to support legislation to allow gay unions.
Mr. Duterte stressed that the country was Asia’s bastion of Roman Catholicism, which steadfastly opposes same-sex marriage.
He pointed to a recent issue of Time magazine that tackled gender issues, featuring a transgender woman on its cover.
“That is their culture,” he said, referring to other countries where the American magazine circulates. “That’s for them. That can’t apply to us, because we are Catholics,” Mr. Duterte said in a lengthy speech on Sunday to the small Filipino community in Myanmar, where he arrived as part of a visit to bolster regional ties. He was scheduled to leave for Thailand on Monday.
A transcript of the speech was distributed to journalists in Manila on Monday.
“And there is the civil code, which states you can only marry a woman for me, and for a woman to marry a man. That’s the law in the Philippines.”
Mr. Duterte, who turns 72 next week, said he was only following what was in the books, asserting that he did not take issue with anyone’s sexuality. Two of his brothers-in-law, and some of his cousins, are gay, he said.
But he stressed: “Wherever God has placed you, stay there.” He noted that no one was empowered to “erase the great divide between a woman and a man.”
This stood in contrast to Mr. Duterte’s stance during the 2016 campaign, when he expressed support for possible legislation allowing same-sex marriage.
In a pre-election forum in January last year, Mr. Duterte endeared himself to progressives and the gay community when he was asked whether he would push for legislation to allow same-sex marriages, and he replied that he would. He said there appeared to be an “error in the Bible” when it said unions must be only between men and women.
It should have stated that marriages were for “Adam, Eve and the gays,” he said, to cheers from the crowd.
But since winning the presidency by a wide margin in May, Mr. Duterte has yet to act on that promise.
His allies in the House of Representatives, who control the votes there, have relegated a bill that seeks to protect the rights of gays and lesbians to the back burner, arguing that it was not a priority.
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The bill would have legalized same-sex civil marriage in the Philippines, where the Catholic Church wields substantial political influence.
The church successfully blocked until 2012 the passage of a family planning law that called for free contraceptives, and it is still in the forefront of efforts to stymie talk of legalizing divorce. Apart from the Vatican, the Philippines is the only nation in the world that still outlaws divorce.
Former Representative Etta Rosales filed a same-sex marriage bill in the House 18 years ago, but it has never progressed beyond first-round discussions.
Senator Risa Hontiveros sponsored a counterpart measure in the upper chamber last year. That bill has received a first reading, but it still has a long way to go before becoming a law.
The bill seeks to eliminate discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people in education, health, labor and other sectors. Senators are set to debate the proposal and amend some provisions if necessary before putting it up for a new round of voting on the floor.
Ms. Rosales, who remains an activist, charged that Mr. Duterte had a “narrowed view” of the issue.
“When people love each other, whether heterosexual or of the same sex, what is paramount is the love towards the other person’s humanity,” Ms. Rosales said. “This must be respected. Same-sex marriage, deriving from that principle, protects both parties with respect to property rights and even in caring for children both parties decide to adopt.”
She accused Mr. Duterte of being “unable to grasp truths beyond his myopic world of self-delusion.”
Mr. Duterte has had a complicated relationship with the Catholic Church, which he has assailed in vulgar terms as a “hypocritical institution.” He has openly accused its leaders of corruption and sexual exploitation.
The usually outspoken church has largely kept silent in the face of such attacks, but it has lately been forced to criticize the government amid mounting pressure to say something about Mr. Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drugs.
The church can still be a political force if it chooses. It helped topple two presidents — Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001 — over allegations of corruption. And in February, it gathered about 30,000 people in a largely peaceful protest against Mr. Duterte.