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Philippines: Supreme Court Rules on Same-Sex Marriage

(Jan. 24, 2020) On January 6, 2020, the Philippines’ Supreme Court announced it had dismissed a motion to reconsider its September 2019 ruling denying a petition to approve same-sex marriage in the country, effectively concluding this case “with finality.”

The petition had essentially requested that the Court declare unconstitutional on equality grounds certain provisions of the Philippine Family Code that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The Court indicated in its ruling that the petitioner’s request was too limited in scope, as there are a wide variety of other statutes besides the Family Code that similarly treat marriage as a heterosexual institution. Thus, it stated that the petitioner should have made a direct argument against those other statutes as well, which he failed to do.

In the absence of such arguments, the Court stated that granting the petitioner’s request would cause the Court to arrogate to itself quasi-legislative powers, as this would be necessary in order to amend all the statutes that inevitably would have to be changed to accommodate his petition. The Court thus explained that such a task should be done by the Philippine Congress through the pertinent legislative process.

In addition, the Court stated that petitioner had failed to demonstrate that he was directly affected by the provisions he deemed unconstitutional, as he did not request (and thus was not denied) a license to enter into a same-sex marriage, and consequently could not establish the proper standing to file his lawsuit.

Furthermore, the Court indicated that petitioner had failed to abide by the principle known as the “hierarchy of courts,” according to which he should have filed his case in a trial court (which he did not do), where factual and evidentiary matters are properly processed. Instead, the petitioner filed his lawsuit directly in the Supreme Court, which, being the Philippines’ highest court, may not appropriately  process and discharge those procedural matters.

In its decision announced in January 2020, the Court stated that “no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision,” and thus, “no further pleadings or motions will be entertained” on this matter.